The first time I saw a cardamom pod was in an Indian restaurant. A bowl of them was sitting by the front door, and I was encouraged to take a few to chew on as I left. Naturally I assumed cardamom’s main use was as a post-dinner breath freshener. Later I realized that the little black or brown seeds inside each pod had probably been used in some of the dishes I’d just eaten.
One of the most expensive spices sold, cardamom is popular in Indian, Middle Eastern and Scandinavian cooking. The Vikings are thought to have used it as a cake flavoring. Ancient Greeks and Romans also had it in their kitchens.
Cardamom has a gingery flavor and is often added in combination with cinnamon and cloves. It is one of the components of Garam Masala, an Asian spice blend.
You can buy cardamom as pods, seeds or ground. The flavor is strongest when the seeds are still in the pods, so remove them just before adding them to what you’re cooking.