I think cardamom is my favorite spice.
Lovely, lovely, lovely.
It has a very different flavor and scent, and because it's so pungent not much is necessary to impart its flavor (but, of course, that would depend on how strong you want it...).
I don't quite know how to describe cardamom because it's unlike anything else. Warm, spicy-sweet, and aromatic are words used in my food dictionary to describe it. Yep.
Cardamom is grown in tropical climates, is used in a variety of places for many different things- India (curries, sweets, chai), the Middle East (sweets, coffee), and Scandinavia (baked goods).
As for Scandinavia being thrown into the mix, it had something to do with the Vikings and spice trade a LONG time ago.
The magnificent flavor is in the seeds which are contained in white, black, or green pods. You can buy it ground, but as with any spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) the essential oils evaporate more quickly from spices that are already ground. The flavor definitely lasts longer in spices that are left fresh, whole and only ground as necessary.
Although we happen to be from none of the aforementioned cultures in my family, Mom has always put cardamom in white bread when she made it. She would get out the mortar and pestle and crush the seeds from one cardamom pod and add it with the dry ingredients. She said my grandfather (father's father) taught her to do this. His background parents were from Prague and Bavaria, so we're not really sure if he had always been taught to do this, or he learned it along the way somewhere.
I found this wonderful recipe somewhere, but I can't remember where I got it- SORRY! I'm pretty sure it was from a blog, and I know it was within the last several months (that's about it though). I've made a couple minor adaptations to the wording and techniques.