When you buy ground cardamom, chances are it's been pulverized from the whole pod, according to Ethan Frisch of the spice company Burlap & Barrel. Yet the vast majority of the spice's flavor comes from its seeds. While packaged seeds are available in South Asian markets and from specialty purveyors, they're far pricier than ground cardamom or intact pods, since extracting the seeds (a process called decorticating) is labor-intensive.
Why and How to Harvest Cardamom Seeds
But you can save yourself money—and experience cardamom's full potency—by extracting these little seeds from the pods yourself and crushing or grinding them on their own for Swedish recipes such as kanelbullar or South Asian specialties such as garam masala. Here are two good methods. (Note: Twelve cardamom pods will yield about 1 teaspoon of whole or coarsely ground seeds or ¾ teaspoon of finely ground seeds.)
For Bigger Batches
1. Pulse whole cardamom pods, 2 tablespoons at a time, in spice grinder until pods break open and seeds are released. Transfer pods and seeds to small bowl.
2. Fill bowl with water and agitate briefly. Let sit for 1 minute, so seeds sink to bottom and lighter pods float to top.
3. Pour water and pods off top, then add more water to bowl and repeat process until no pods rise to top.
4. Use fine-mesh strainer to drain seeds well (discard any remaining empty pods) and spread in thin layer on smooth dish towel. Blot dry with second towel. If using immediately, it's fine to grind seeds while they're damp. If storing, allow seeds to dry fully before transferring to airtight container.
For Smaller Batches
Smash a few pods at a time in mortar and pestle, then separate out seeds.
Learn More About Cardamom
Confused about the differences among green cardamom, white cardamom, and black cardamom? This article can help.
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