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Why is Cardamom so Expensive?

May 3, 2011

Have you ever stopped to wonder where some of the things we buy for consumption are grown and what it takes to harvest them?  I bet you have.  And, although we can use the internet to find out lots of cool information about where different spices, fruits, and vegetables are grown it is not very often that we get to see them first hand, growing in the wild.

Here in the southern jungle and mountain ranges of Sapa, Vietnam cardamom grows everywhere.  It is a large plant with thick stocks and huge leaves.  It grows on the steep cliffs and mountain hillsides throughout the jungle. 

It is harvested by local Vietnamese as well as the H’mong people and sold in the markets everywhere.  It looks very different from the green cardamom we purchase at home which is probably grown in India or maybe even Mexico.  These pods are larger and a rich brown colour.  We think it is black cardamom. It has a milder taste, more like a strong  black pepper.  We purchased 100 grams of cardamom pods for 100, 000 VND which is about $5.  (Note: we picked up an additional 1kilo of cardamom for 250,000VND…now that is a good price!!!…the local price.  Here you have to barter for everything and good negotiation skills come in handy.)We think it was a pretty good price and are interested in trying this variety in some of the Vietnamese dishes we plan to make at home.

The Vietnamese are famous for being able to combine sweet, sour, and savoury ingredients which gives their cooking lots of flavour.  It is a delicate balance of tastes and they have mastered the skills of combining them.  Cardamom is used in small amounts to add a savoury flavour to some of their soup dishes.  

So, the next time you wonder why something is so expensive you can ask yourself, “where does this come from?  And, would I be willing to climb up a mountain to collect it?”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. SWyckoff permalink
    May 3, 2011 11:44 pm

    What a wonderful trip I am having with you! Thank you for sharing and all the pictures!

  2. sylvia permalink
    May 4, 2011 7:50 am

    That was SO informative! And the pictures really gave a visual to the information, Thank you. I am one who has stood there with a jar of spice in my hand wondering WHY these are so expensive. Now I have something to remember. I’m loving every single post you’ve written. Your adventures are just astounding! Have fun!

  3. May 4, 2011 6:17 pm

    I’m envying the potential of the spice route you’re on! Don’t forget cinnamon!

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