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"From chewing gums to a journey through the world of spices"

Mr Cardamom, an unusual spice story 

(How it all started)

Andrea Caria - May 2018

It the beginning it was with the smell of saffron and homemade pasta in my grandma's kitchen, those of wild fennel seeds and pepper in grilled sausages, of bay leaves and lemon peel and myrtle, all traditional perfumes of sardinian cooking, but in more recent years my new relationship with spices had an unusual culprit: chewing gum!


You may wonder what the heck has chewing gum to do with spices, and I am going to tell you in a few moments, for now let's just say that after I discovered that:


  1. chewing gums are made with synthetic, petroleum-based rubber (goodyear, the tires producer, also makes this gum)  
  2. approx. 100000 tonnes of chewing gums are produced (and become waste) every year (the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts)
  3. 90% of the gums are not correctly disposed and are just thrown in the environment (or hidden under school desks)
  4. it can cost up to 2 euro to remove each wad of gum from the streets and  pavements


I decided to stop buying them!


My conscience was lighter, but I missed that mint-fresh breath and I started to look for more ecologic and traditional alternatives:


  • greeks used to chew the resin of lentisk (or mastic tree) that is called mastic (the name comes from the greek for  “to chew”) to help digestion, and as a breath freshener
  • Mukhwas is an indian after meal snack, used as a mouth freshener; it contains fennel, sesame and anise seeds, coconut, and sometimes it is sweetened with rock sugar pieces
  • fresh sage or mint leaves can be chewed for the same purpose


great bits of information, but not so practical to use outside the comfort of a house.

 

I needed something easier to carry with me every time, not perishable, and with great taste... and finally I found the perfect solution:

a spice, long lasting, with breath freshening and digestion helping properties, and that came with its own biodegradable but sturdy packaging!


(ta-daaan: enters the cardamom pod)


I went out to find some pods and when I tried one it was a revelation: inside the green pods of cardamom there are small black/brown seeds that when chewed release a complex citrusy taste, a bit spicy, but herbal with hints of menthol.


It tasted great, and freshened my breath way better that any gum!


I was conquered, I filled a tin box with cardamom pods and took them always with me, I become the cardamom evangelist in my city, I offered my precious green pods to everybody, praising their virtues. 


I ate a lot of cardamom and wherever I went I was preceded by its exotic scent…


Mr Cardamom was born!


Since then I became less cardamom addicted, but I learned the virtues of many more spices and herbs, and their traditional uses in cooking and as medicines, and it is a good time to start sharing all this.


Welcome to Seed Root and Leaf, your guide in the journey through the spice world, and the place where to find the best and freshest spices and herbs




A few tips to make the best of your herbs and spices

Tip #1

BUY THEM FRESH

Spices are the fruits, or barks, or roots, of plants, and as every plant they have their seasonality.


When fresh they have the most flavor, and the higher content of volatile oils (the good stuff)

Tip #2

TOAST THEM

Many spices' flavor can be greatly improved by dry toasting, or sautéing in fat (ghee is indians' preferred medium). 


You can do it in an iron or cast iron pan, or (for dry toasting) in the oven.

Keep in the skillet until fragrant, then remove and grind (see tip #3) 

Tip #3

GROUND them yourself

Well stored whole spices will taste great for years, while ground ones will lose their properties after just a few months. 


So always grind them yourself, and just the quantity you will use weekly,

Ready to learn more? 

Discover more tips, and start using spices like a

pro with the spice pairing cheat-sheet

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