Ground Grains of Paradise
Grains of Paradise, Aframomum melegueta, is a member of the Zingiberaceae family (also known as the ginger family) and is closely related to cardamom, galangal, ginger and turmeric.
Grains of Paradise is indigenous to Africa's West coast, primarily the countries Ghana, Liberia, Togo and Nigeria with most imports coming out of Ghana. Grains of Paradise has a rich history in Middle Eastern, North and West African cuisines and in the last ten years this spice is once again becoming more popular in other regions of the world. These pyramid-shaped whole seeds are reddish brown and turn to a dull Grey when ground.
It is often used by astute cooks as a substitute for something similar, but more flavorful than black pepper. Grains of Paradise, with its aromatic fragrance and spicy heat (but certainly not chile pepper hot), brings food to life in a way that black pepper is never quite able to achieve.
Contains .5% to 1% essential oil, mostly humulene and caryophyllene. The mild, pungent aroma is due to paradol, shogoal and gingerol.
Grains of Paradise is called Jouz as-Sudan, Jouz ash-sharq, Jouz al-Sudan, Gawz al-Sudan, Gawz al-shark, Jawz as-Sirk or Tin al-Fil (Arabic), Tian guo gu li (Mandarin), Graines de paradis, Malaguette or Poivre de Guinée, Maniguette (French), Paradieskörner, Guineapfeffer, Meleguetapfeffer or Malagettapfeffer (German), Sementes-do-paraíso, Grãos-do-paraíso or Pimenta Guiné (Portuguese), Rajskie zyorna, Rajskie zerna or Malagvet (Russian) and Malagueta or Pimienta de malagueta (Spanish).
Grains of Paradise is also known as alligator pepper, melegueta pepper (not to be confused with Brazilian Malagueta pepper, which is actually a member of the Capsicum family), Guinea pepper, ginny pepper and Roman pepper.
Grains of Paradise was called by Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) "African pepper", and in the Middle Ages (400-1400AD) this spice was referred to as "grana paradisi" meaning "grains of paradise" due to its high value. This name reflects on the medieval conception of an "earthly paradise" full of the aroma of spices. In Hebrew, the Biblical term "Eden" is used in describing this spice "gargeri gan ha-eden" which translates to "grains from the Garden of Eden".
The earliest written record of the plant occurred in 1214 AD, with several medical prescriptions from physicians in the vast Roman Empire. In 1469, Portugal's King Afonso V (reigned from 1438-1481) granted the Lisbon explorer and merchant, Ferno Gomes, a monopoly on trade in the Gulf of Guinea. This allowed Gomes to control the trade route out of the West African market, including what he called guinea pepper, being imported into Europe (primarily into France, Italy and Portugal) which was coveted as a less expensive substitution for black pepper from the east.
The Grains of Paradise trade became so substantial that the African coastline bordering the Gulf of Guinea became known as the Pepper Coast (also sometimes referred to as the Grain Coast). In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama established the sea route from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and into the Indian Ocean. This opened up the very profitable trade route with the East and its wealth of spices, including black peppercorns, making them less expensive and more readily available. The European market for Grains of Paradise soon collapsed.
Queen Elizabeth I of England (who ruled from 1558-1603) was said to flavor her beer with Grains of Paradise.
Until recently, Grains of Paradise has remained a minor spice outside of West Africa.
Grown from a rhizome, Grains of Paradise is a tropical reed-like plant that thrives in the swamps of the "Pepper Coast" of West Africa. The plant reaches a height of 3-5 feet with bamboo looking leaves that are 1" wide by 10" long. It produces pink or purple lily flowers which develop into pods that can be 1.5 to 3" long. The pods, which look like tough leathery husks, will contain between to 60-100 seeds in a white jelly-like pulp.
The plant takes about 12 days to begin growing from seed and is ready for the first harvest about 10 months later. Each plant can bear fruit (pods) for up to 10 years.
In West Africa, Grains of Paradise is commercially harvested in Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. They're also grown on a smaller scale in the US, India and in the Caribbean, where they were brought in the 1800's on slave ships from West Africa.
Depending on the time of year, our Grains of Paradise may come from Nigeria or the US.
Grains of Paradise is one the three primary spices native to West Africa, together with Long Pepper and Cubeb, that are often ground and mixed in complex blends. In the North African country of Tunisia, Grains of Paradise is used to add flavor to vegetable dishes (especially eggplant). In West Africa, it's used to spice vegetables such as eggplant, okra, potatoes and pumpkin. In Europe, Grains of Paradise has a long history of use spicing beer and wine and, more recently, liqueurs and vinegars.
You can use Ground Grains of Paradise almost like a finishing salt and sprinkle on top right before a dish is served. Grains of Paradise works really well in this manner especially on steamed fish, steamed vegetables and on just about any type of rice dish.
You'll soon discover that there is probably no recipe in which Grains of Paradise can't be substituted for black pepper. Like peppercorns, they can be ground in a pepper mill or crushed with a mortar and pestle. We typically use Grains of Paradise in larger amounts in our cooking when using as a substitute for black pepper.
We always recommend starting off with less Grains of Paradise rather than more when using it the first few times so that it doesn't overpower your dish. You can always add more.
Grains of Paradise is found in the Moroccan spice blend Ras el Hanout.
Grains of Paradise is used to flavor chicken, couscous, fish, grilled lamb, okra, pickling mixtures, pumpkin, rice, soups and stews. In this country, it's gaining popularity when ground into dipping sauces or rubbed on chicken, steaks and hamburgers before grilling.
Grains of Paradise pairs well with cinnamon, coriander, clove, cumin and ginger.
One of our favorite recipes using Grains of Paradise is Roasted Carrot Soup with Ras el Hanout.
Grains of Paradise has a peppery, pungent flavor with bitter fruity notes and a slight aroma that is similar to a cross of cardamom and clove. Grains of Paradise is not as pungent as black pepper.
What are good Grains of Paradise Substitutes?
We've heard of Grains of Paradise substitutes being ground black pepper, cardamom or sansho powder -- typically 1 part Grains of Paradise to 1/2 part of any one of these. We feel for a more complete flavor you're better off substituting 1 part Grains of Paradise with 1/2 part ground black pepper and 1/4 part each of cardamom and ginger.
Can you add Grains of Paradise to beer?
Yes, absolutely. Grains of Paradise is often added to summer wheat beers, session pale ale and Belgian witbiers. The brewer Sam Adams adds Grains of Paradise to their Summer Ale, Cold Snap, White Latern and Imperial White.
What are seeds of paradise?
This is also Grains of Paradise.
** This product is certified kosher.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*