The brittle paper-like green pod of the cardamom protects a cluster of tiny brown seeds which contains its unique perfumed aroma and taste.
Cardamom grows on bushes in southern India as well as Sri Lanka and Gautemala and is one of the more expensive spices since it receives a lot of personal attention when being picked and sorted.
Cardamom flavour enhances both sweet and savoury dishes. In India, apart from it flavouring desserts such as ice cream (kulfi), rice and meat dishes, it gives tea a characteristic scented taste, while Arab countries use it to flavour coffee. In Europe, Scandinavia is one of its biggest fans where you'll find the scent of cardamom lingering in many of their special breads and pastries.
Whole pods can be added when cooking, but so the flavour can be released, give them a quick bash with a rolling pin first to expose the seeds. If added whole the pods can either be discarded after cooking or left in for decoration only (they are not edible). When a recipe calls for just the seeds, slit the pod lengthways with a small sharp knife so you can pick them out.