Monday, January 23, 2012

Harvest [Cardamom]

The Cardamom harvest got under way in October, and has been going strong ever since.

A typical house surrounded by cardamom fields.

The tops of the plants are big reaching leafy fronds, 
at the base are the flowers and seed pods.

Although they look the same from the outside, some pods are ready to pick (those with the black seeds) and some are still immature (those with the white). Those in the know go through and invariably pluck the ones with black, coming back through two to three weeks later to get the next round of ripe cardamom further down on the stem.

It's tiring work, requiring bending over to the ground to reach the seed pods.

Once picked, they are gathered together and taken to the cooperative...

...where they are bought and put into huge wood-fired driers. Once dry, the coop sells the "pergamino" abroad where it is processed. I haven't met any Guatemalans who have tasted cardamom, despite it being the main income in my community and many villages in my area.  

I bought some cardamom while home in the States for the holidays. 
If anyone knows a simple recipe using cardamom, please post it in the comments. 
I'd love to share the flavor with my host family and the women in my cooking groups.


  1. One time, at FLBC, back in 2009, I was making ginger cookies, and the recipe called for cloves, and I couldn't find any, so Bree told me I could use cardamom instead, so I did. And the ginger cookies tasted the same. Just a thought.

  2. You might be able to make a variation of this recipe. I don't really think you have to deal with the shallots and the oil...

    Whipped Cardamom Sweet Potatoes Recipe
    Add a photo
    1 of 1 Photo
    Whipped Cardamom Sweet Potatoes

    Yield 8 servings


    5 pounds sweet potatoes
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 quart vegetable oil for frying
    3/4 pound thinly sliced shallots


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
    Prick sweet potatoes with a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until tender; reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
    Scoop potato flesh out of skins and place into a mixing bowl. Slowly beat in the butter and cardamom. Whip until potatoes are smooth and fluffy; season with salt and white pepper. Keep warm in oven.
    In a large deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil until shimmering. Add 1/2 of the shallots to oil and fry until crisp. Transfer the shallots, using a slotted spoon, to a paper towel; season with salt. Repeat the process until all the shallots are fried. Garnish top of potatoes with shallots.


    Editor's Note
    We have determined the nutritional value of oil for frying based on a retention value of 10% after cooking. The exact amount may vary depending

  3. Gorgeous pics, and interesting process, thanks for sharing Bethany! It's boggling to me that most of the locals haven't had the opportunity to try the product that they harvest. I hope you get the chance to share it with them!

  4. This is probably sacrilege for Guatemalans, but I love cardamom with beans. I fry onions and garlic, usually chop a whole bunch of cabbage thinly and then pour in pre-cooked beans in some juice so the whole thing can simmer, seasoned with salt and pepper and cardamom. I love these harvest pictures and descriptions, thank you beth!

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, all! Anna, what kind of beans do you use? Black? Kidney? White? I'm going to have to try all these recipes.

  6. I'd suggest adding Cardamom to virtually any banana-bread type recipe. Maybe this would be something that Mom and I could do with the women while we're there? I'll try to grab any ingredients that might not be at hand... like yeast in case we want to do bread. Do they do bread? I suppose we should avoid anything that involves ingredients they can't get a second time... I'll come with recipes in hand! xo