This article is part of A Harmony of Flavors mission to publish pertinent articles to help bring people’s attention to important issues or problems and hopefully offer some form of education for them to make the best decisions. This Article describes that Grains of Paradise, are a species in the ginger family and related to cardamom. Sometimes known as Guinea Pepper or Melegueta Pepper, this spice has been out of vogue for a long time. In the 14th and 15th centuries, production of the spice was so important that the Gulf of Guinea coast became known as the Melegueta Coast. The ease of access to Europe made this spice a popular substitute for pepper from far away Asia.
Grains of Paradise are actually small reddish brown seeds that are found in 2 – 3 inch long pods, whereas pepper comes from the berries of the pepper plant. The little pyramidal shaped grains are separated from the bitter white pulp of the ripe fruit and allowed to dry. The Grains have long been used as a stand in for pepper and are known to be less irritating for the digestion. When tasting these Grains there is an inviting heat, but a gentler version than the harsher heat of pepper. There is an herbaceous and citrusy character with warm spicy undertones of cinnamon, cloves or cardamom, though the components that make up the flavor of cardamom are present only in traces. The pleasant heat lingers for a while on the finish.
Largely unknown these days in cooking outside of the West African Coast, some popular chefs have once again begun making Grains of Paradise a sought after spice. It is sometimes used in the spices flavoring Scandinavian Aquavit, as well as some popular beer. The intriguing flavors lend themselves to flavoring foods both sweet and savory. They are a great addition to something like a gingerbread or spice cake, with the gentle warmth. Grains of Paradise work well with other herbs such as rosemary and thyme, or lemon thyme to pick up the citrusy note. It can be used in most any place pepper is called for, though the flavor is not that of pepper. I believe they would be a perfect substitute for pepper in Pfeffernusse Cookies.
Rawstern is an author, teacher, gourmet cook as well as a photographer and graphic artist. She has taken or created all images appearing on these sites. Her articles have been syndicated nationally.
Her background is Slovakian on her mother's side and Yugoslavian on her father's. Her grandparents came from Europe to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families. Her ethnic cooking influences began at the cradle. She began her cooking career in Guatemala, in 1970 when she moved there as a 20-year-old newlywed, and set out to learn to cook in a foreign land. This process was complicated by the fact that she could not speak or read the language.
Rawstern loves food, new recipes, and to teach people how to cook from scratch. Her passion is to teach people how to create A Harmony of Flavors when they cook, find joy in baking and help pass along her love of and joy in foods, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy, as she continues her journey in both ethnic cooking and domestic. Her favorite saying in her class is “Life is short – eat dessert first”.
About the Author
My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. I love food. I love to cook, and teach people how to cook, from scratch. I love baking. I love to create new recipes and try them. I hope to inspire you to follow me!
I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of collecting favored recipes of your own. Visit me at my Web site (http://www.aharmonyofflavors.com/