NEW Cardamom Supplier: Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

There are few things we enjoy more than a Whatsapp from one of our growers or buyers.
Francisco Lavagnino’s are amongst our favourites:

May God continue blessing you, your family and your business” – the usual sign-off from our ‘man on the ground’ in Guatemala. Occasionally he sends through a photograph of the new harvest being picked or a video of him lovingly swirling huge, uniform green cardamom pods in a bowl.

Since Rooted Spices launched, we’ve always sourced our cardamom from Guatemala. It’s not a native spice to Central America. (Indeed, it wasn’t until 1914 when a German coffee planter introduced cardamom to Guatemala). Cardamom hasn’t even been incorporated into Guatemala’s cuisine – which is similar to Mexican in its love for chillies, tostadas and enchiladas.

However in a short century, Guatemala quickly excelled at growing cardamom. Or ‘green gold’ as it came to be known. By the 1980s Guatemala was the biggest global producer of cardamom. Little wonder – after saffron and vanilla cardamom is the third most expensive spice (/kg) in the world – and  it just happens to thrive in north Guatemala’s humid highlands.

It’s in the cloud forest region round Alta Verapaz where Francisco Lavagnino operates. He runs an export company, 786 Gexsa, with co-founder Amilcar Perira. He started out as a labourer working on cardamom plantations during harvest time. “Work more, save more, buy more” was his motto – and the pair’s hustle has paid off.

They now own their own cardamom plantation and processing plant. This makes them the only exporters in Guatemala who see the whole production process through from start to finish. The result is a top quality product: uniform, big green pods exploding with sweet, resinous perfume.

As the business grows, Lavagnino and Perira are starting to work with other smallholders. They pay a premium for their top-grade cardamom. After all, theirs is a business which can’t deal with quantity. They aren’t chasing the big wholesalers so their emphasis will always be on top quality produce. It means that they will only supplement their crop with the best.

It chimes with us here at Rooted Spices. As a small business ourselves, we need to play to our strengths. What we can’t do is buy by the ton and provide you with rock bottom prices. What we can do is invest our time in relationships, finding the best growers and working together to import something really special.  

So it was with much excitement that we helped Lavagnino arrange his first UK shipment during the late-November harvest. It was clear that the cardamom had arrived before the boxes were even opened – such is the potency of the pods he’s sent.

Cardamom has always been one of my favourite spices These next-level cardamom pods have really got me excited. From fragrant rice puddings to Sri Lankan curries and Danish bakes I can’t stop reaching for my tin … and although a little goes a long way, my enthusiasm for ‘a little cardamom’ means that my first tin has only lasted a couple of months. I hope that you enjoy our Green Cardamom Pods even a fraction as much as we have enjoyed sourcing and cooking with this one.

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