About a thousand years ago, the Vikings discovered sacks of aromatic seed-pods in a Byzantine market and took some home. Cardamoms have been a popular spice in Scandinavia ever since.
But the story of the cardamom is older than that; it is one of the world’s most ancient and best-travelled spices. The Egyptians chewed cardamoms to clean their teeth; the Greeks and Romans used them as perfume; the Arabian Nights mentions them as an aphrodisiac. They flavour coffee in Turkey and Arabia, and feature in any number of South Indian dishes.
In the West, where it has always been expensive, the cardamom is a spice associated with festive and occasional dishes.
Ayurvedic physicians use cardamom to treat infections and other maladies of the teeth, gums, throat and lungs. It is also said to be an antidote for scorpion stings.