Black cardamom is a member of the ginger family which is a small herb with strong aromatic fragrances. It has a smoky flavor that comes from the method of drying it on a flame which also lends it a distinct aroma. It is sold both as pods and seeds where the pods carry a higher flavor. There are many distinct species of black cardamom which range in different sizes and have different taste. Black cardamom is known to be native to the Eastern Himalayas. Other main production regions include Eastern Nepal, India (mostly in the tiny union state Sikkim) and Bhutan. Apart from usage in Indian (and Nepali) cuisine, they are not much known but have some regional importance in the regions of Central and Southern China.
Always try to buy black cardamom whole rather than in seed form as it begins to lose its potency and aroma when the skin is removed. Look for fragrant, well-formed pods that are plump, firm, and dry as it ensures brimming of seeds.
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