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Long Black Pepper Has a Spicy Past

One of the most ancient spices we sell is the long pepper, also called long black pepper, Indian long pepper, jaborandi pepper and a host of other names.

It originally comes from India and Indonesia, and is used whole in a number of slow-cooked dishes and pickles in Asia, East Africa and North Africa.

In centuries gone by, before chili peppers were discovered in the New World, this now-obscure seasoning was highly valued by Europeans: Historians tell us that both Attila the Hun and Alaric the Visigoth — destroyer of the Roman Empire — demanded long pepper as part of their tribute as conquerors.

(Perhaps one of the reasons these warlords wanted plenty of long pepper had to do with this spice’s reputation as an aphrodisiac, complete with a recipe in the Kama Sutra!)

Long pepper has also been used in magic and medicine since ancient times, and to this day is an element in Ayurvedic medicine.

Resembling tiny, thin pinecones, long pepper pods have a sweet aroma and a very different taste and aftertaste than regular black peppercorns. Grating or grinding the pods releases even more of the complex flavors, with traces of warm spices balanced by a slightly biting coolness. These qualities make long pepper a good companion for both savory and sweet dishes.

Long pepper grows on a vine with catkin flowers that produce the spiky black pepper pods. It is a member of the piperaceae plant family, which also gives us the more familiar round peppercorns, but generally is not used as a substitute for black pepper.

Instead, long pepper’s unique flavor profile makes it a good candidate for adding complexity to long-simmering stews and sauces, as well as pickles and preserves. Add the pods whole, and bite them with discretion.

For instant excitement, grate or grind a little long pepper atop fresh fruit — or try this amazing dessert topping: »» Pistachio-Pepper Ice Cream Topping