Melegueta Pepper

Melegueta pepper (Aframomum melegueta) is a perennial that produces a brown pod that contains many small seeds.

Melegueta is found in subtropical Africa (where it is often used as an aphrodisiac), it is of the genus Aframomum and belongs to the same botanical family as ginger, Zingiberaceae.

Its seed is used as a condiment. It is sometimes called malaguette, pepper of Guinea or grains of paradise. It was one of the main merchandise exported from the West African coast from the 14th century, and gave its name to the Pepper Coast in the Gulf of Guinea.

The fruits are ovoid or fusiform berries orange then red. They contain a colourless pulp with tangy flavor. Bright, angular, shiny, red-brown seeds measure 3.5 mm in diameter

The pungent, peppery taste of the seeds is caused by aromatic ketones, such as paradol.

Essential oils, which are the dominating flavor components in the closely related cardamom, occur only in traces.

Melegueta pepper is commonly used in the cuisines of West and North Africa, where it has been traditionally imported by camel caravan routes through the Sahara desert, and whence they were distributed to Sicily and the rest of Italy. Mentioned by Pliny as "African pepper" but subsequently forgotten in Europe, they were renamed "grains of paradise" and became a popular substitute for black pepper in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Ménagier de Paris recommends it for improving wine that "smells stale".

Through the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, the theory of the four humours governed theories about nourishment on the part of doctors, herbalists, and drug-stores. In this context, John Russell characterized grains of paradise in The Boke of Nurture as "hot and moist".

© 2018 Wessel Woortman

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