Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jul 27, 2007 08:55 PM

Cardamom and Guatamala

I noticed that much of the green cardamom is sourced from Guatamala - is it native, does it figure at all into the cuisine?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm not 100% positive but I thought Cardamom was originally from tropical Asia - I think it's really popular in the Netherlands because its importation and use has its roots in the old Dutch trading days...

    1. This Wiki article mentions growing it in Central America, but the origins, and greatest use, are Asia. I suspect that Guatamala source is a few farms or cooperatives that decided it was a good cash crop, and had the right climate.

      7 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        As I understand it Cardamom is indigenous to the Indian sub-continent. Today it is cultivated commercial in Southern Mexico and Guatemala. There are conflicting stories on how it came to Middle America. A popular one is that it was first introduced by the Gum companies during the heydey of Chicle production in the Yucatan and parts of Belize & Guatemala. As they planted Cardomom for their flavoring... it took well to the forests of the area and now grows wild. At some point the Mayan population began using a little bit of it in their cooking (I've had Pipian / Pepian from both Chiapas & Guatemala that had Cardomom in it).

        In terms of commercial cultivation.... if I understand correctly... small cooperatives grow it alongside Shade Grown Coffee and Cacao as an additional income source... rather than an intense plantation.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Cardamom flavored gum sounds really good - I like a bit in my coffee. I wonder why they stopped producing it?

          So I guess we can assume that it first made its presence in the cuisine about the turn into the 20th century?

          It pretty expensive so I can understand its role as a pure cash crop for exportation - but was curious to its appearance in local cuisine.

          1. re: kare_raisu

            You can still find Cardamom flavored gum in Mexico. I mentioned the heyday.... at first gum was made from the rubbery sap? of the Chicle tree. At some point.. some chemist figured out how to create a synthetic gum... and it was all over for the global industry. I think there is still a moderate natural Chicle industry in Mexico.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Is there a particular brand name of cardamom flavored gum or even the natural chicle gum?

              1. re: kare_raisu

                Guatemala still produces it, there is a company called Peter Pan, S.A. (no relation to the peanut butter!) and they have a flavor called Romy Cardamomo...I haven't seen it in any of the Latino markets uphere, but then again I have not gone looking for it. I'm pretty sure the Middle Eastern markets will have their own flavor of cardamomo gum, again, I haven't seen it but that's because I have not gone looking for it...worth a trip to either store?

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  I can't find any links but I am pretty sure mainstream brands like Trident have a Cardamom flavor.... otherwise the Romy brand I am sure of (I had no idea it was imported from Guatemala). As far as natural chicles... the Chiclet brand had a line of natural that I purchased from a Sanborn's a couple of years back.

              2. re: kare_raisu

                Actually, you can buy large bags of cardamom in any Indian grocery store at very reasonable prices. I just bought one today.

          2. Everybody who has responded to this is right!

            Guatemala (where I'm from) is the #1 producer and exporter of Green Cardamom in the world, in 2005 they had a bumper crop of 32,000 tonnes (compared to India's 8,000 tonnes). Guatemalan Cardamom is also highly prized; as it is with our coffees, our microclimates really enable production of wonderful products. Most of the cardamom in Guatemala is grown in the Departments of El Quiche and the Verapaces, both regions are highland with cloud forests...given the numbers, clearly this environment favors cardamom.

            I don't think it is used as much as it is in India, the Middle East or in Scandinavia but it can be used in dishes where you are using a sauce for the chicken, turkey or pork or for certain rice based desserts.

            Editing to add: this probably came over with the Spanairds, as it was used in the Middle Ages/Renaissance. In Spanish: Cardamomo

            4 Replies
            1. re: Cat Chow

              You mention turkey. I had turkey outside of Coban (where turkeys are supposedly famous) where coffee farmers also grew cardamomo--and they added no cadamomo to the dish. It was great. One 200 year old turkey (in turkey years) that weighed about as much as a neglected chicken that fed about 40 of us. A really, really memorable meal spiced with joy and served with love.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                ah yes our beloved "chumpe". Was it served as "kak-ik"?

              2. re: Cat Chow

                I love cardamom, and turkey with cardamom sauce sounds delicious. Do you have a recipe? Or a name for the dish so I can search for one?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  actually the aforementioned "kak-ik" dish would lend itself to a pinch of cardamomo, because it already asks for a pinch of cinnamon and a couple of cloves. Let me go digging in my Guatemalan cookbooks for a Kak-ik recipie.

              3. Cardamom is grown in relatively high altitude areas within the tropics--the coffee growing areas in Guatemala (around Coban, for example) and in the foothills of the Himalayas (between the highlands and the Terai of Bhutan, for example). I've not noticed much cardamom use in either country.

                1. It's not at all native and, as a major commercial crop, I think is relatively recent, after WWII, anyway. I think someone just found a niche...