We’ve been great fans of ginger, turmeric and cardamom for as long as we can think back. We love the taste of these roots and their enormous health effects.
All three are from the family of ginger plants. Cardamom is from the seeds of the Cardamom plant, ginger and turmeric are both roots. The plants are widely used in India and other parts of Asia. Most recipes we know do not involve combinations of the three (or two of the) spices, but contain just one of the three. We find ourselves occasionally combining ginger and turmeric for some Asian chicken dishes, and ginger and cardamom for masala teas or when baking.
My personal favourite is ginger. I literally can’t imagine life without it. Once a week or so I buy a whole kilogram of ginger at the corner store (some of the Costcutter corner stores have top quality ginger roots for a small fraction of the price you’d pay at Waitrose or even Tesco’s). Most of it gets juiced, usually together with lime or lemon, carrots and apples, sometimes together with beet root, or whatever’s in our fridge. I’ll be frank with you, ginger juice takes some getting used to, even if mixed with other juices, it’s extremely potent, burns down your throat and through your intestines, but once you’ve grown accustomed to it, you’ll manage. We’re now committed to a low-carb diet, but before we were, we regularly mixed ginger juice with super-sweet diluted aloe vera drink (also from the corner shop, usually in green 1.5l bottles), which seemed to have worked best in mellowing down the ginger taste and aggressive character. Now we just use more carrots and apples and less ginger. We also use ginger powder on some dishes, mainly South East Asian ones like Thai Curry.
While we use ginger mainly in whole, respectively cut into chunks (when not juiced), we only ever use turmeric as a powder. It is a spice that goes extremely well with our beloved chilli con carne (vast amounts, at least 50g for a pot of 2.5kg minced beef and smoked bacon, plus 1kg of kidney beans, try less at the beginning and see how you like), for scrambled eggs, for laksa, and dozens of other dishes, depending on our mood.
On first taste and especially in smaller amounts it doesn’t have a strong taste, but it immediately lends a subtle (or not so subtle, in larger amounts) earthy tone to any dish, very low on the spiciness scale (not hot, it won’t burn your tongue like ginger or crushed chilli peppers would). We also sometimes add turmeric to our juices. Be really careful not to stain your clothes or furniture, the yellow colour is rather difficult to get out of most surfaces (but fine with crockery of course).
My wife only recently discovered her love of cardamom. I grew up with cardamom, which my parents used to put into the tea and coffee in order to spice it up. You must not skip this spice when spicing up your chai, it goes extremely well in combination with cinnamon.
According to Wikipedia cardamom is the third most expensive spice on planet earth, only surpassed by saffron and vanilla. We find that in most stores it costs less than three times the price of ground black pepper, so it’s not too bad. In the Sainsbury £2-per-shaker range it costs, you guessed it, £2, just as much as the equivalent amount of pepper.
There is true or green cardamom from India and Guatemala, and black cardamom from Nepal, the latter having a distinctly more smoky aroma.
When writing this article, I thought about including some detailed information of the health effects of each of those three spices, but it would have doubled the size of this post. All three of these ginger plants have broadly the same strong effects which include
- strengthen the immune system and counteract/prevent inflammation
- prevent stomach and digestion problems
- act antibacterial and antiviral
- act as antioxidants
- reduce the risk of and lower the effects/development/growth of heart disease and cancer, some disputed animal studies apparently show some cancers being killed completely
- lower the blood pressure
- detoxify (they help the kidneys to get rid of waste)
- they are diuretic (make you pee a lot, which assists in detoxifying)
- prevent blood clots
- prevent against fungi and molds
- act as an aphrodisiac
Needless to say that this is just a best-of list, there are not many ailments that these ginger plants won’t cure. Quote me on that (well, don’t, but you get the drift; this is no medical advice, I’m not qualified to write about this topic; do not rely on this post but do your own research, do not overdose, ginger roots can have side effects including birth defects and miscarriage, if overdosing during pregnancy; raw ginger can be very hard on the stomach and aggravate ulcers, etc.).