Starting around the ninth century, Swedish Vikings turned their longships south and headed for warmer climes ... and discovered, as they pillaged Constantinople, that they had as big a taste for cardamom as they did for Greek gold. You can omit cinnamon and even ginger from many Scandinavian baked goods, but woe to the baker who runs out of cardamom.
So I'm beginning to think that I might have travel a few thousand nautical miles myself if I want to score enough fresh cardamom pods to support my holiday baking agenda. Since running out of the spice last week, I've discovered to my horror that most of my local stores have replaced their jars of cardamom pods with "convenient" ground cardamom - which has a shelf life approximating the lifecycle of a fruit fly. Cardamom is one of the few spices that really needs to be ground immediately before using (I have a second coffee grinder that works great for this).
So it's off to the longships, I think, if I hope to be able to make the that will serve as the base for so many holiday sweet breads (or at least off to my favorite online suppliers).
Cardamom dough image © ©2012 Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com.