An aromatic spice indigenous to south India and Sri Lanka, cardamom seeds come from a plant belonging to the ginger family. They are contained in small pods about the size of a cranberry. Cardamom has a wonderful aroma and an enticing warm, spicy-sweet flavour. The whole pods can be added to dishes, or the seeds can be extracted and either added whole or ground.
Cardamom is widely used in Indian cooking and in Scandinavian baking. It can be bought in the pod, as seeds or ground but the ground seeds soon lose their flavour so it's preferable to buy the pods and grind the seeds yourself using a pestle and mortar. If you’re using cardamom to flavour dishes such as stews and curries, lightly crush the whole pod and add it to the mixture: the shell can be removed after cooking or eaten in the dish. Cardamom also has an affinity with chocolate. A little cardamom goes a long way, though, so use it sparingly.