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You can purchase cardamom as pods, seeds or powder. For the boldest flavor, start with whole pods since ground cardamom is milder. If your recipe calls for whole pods, lightly toast them in a pan over medium heat until they're aromatic, and remember to take them out before serving.
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smoky, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint.