Grains of Paradise - Melegueta Pepper are two closely related spices. Their names, today, are used to describe the same spice, which is also known as Guinea Pepper and Alligator Pepper.
These spices are members of the Ginger family and are also related to Cardamom Spice. They were used widely throughout Europe from the 1200's until the 1500's, and were said to have been a favorite of royalty.
Grains of Paradise - Melegueta Pepper have a hot peppery taste with notes of ginger and nutmeg. Their scent and appearance is similar to cardamom.
They can be dry roasted like cardamom spice, or ground in a peppermill like peppercorns.
Thess spices are indigenous to the northern and west coastal areas of Africa (Ghana).
These spices are used primarily in northern and west coast African cooking. In earlier centuries, they were more widely used throughout Europe.
As they are related to cardamom and ginger, they can be used in savory foods that are flavored by them; and, given their pungent peppery taste, they can flavor food as an alternative to black pepper.
In the fall of 2010, Le Bec Fin, a top-rated French restaurant in Philadelphia, served an appetizer made with heirloom cherry tomatoes, watermelon, chevre sorbet, and Grains of Paradise which was sprinkled over the sorbet. Yum!
Considered carminatives, these spices have properties that ease flatulence (gas) in the body. They may stimulate the appetite, and may work as a diuretic (increase urination).
You can find Grains of Paradise at specialty food markets, or online. Some large specialty food chains, like Whole Foods Market, may sell it too.
Like most whole spices, Grains of Paradise - Melegueta Pepper can be kept for up to about 4 years.
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