Long Pepper, Piper longrum, is also called pipli, long spice, or pippali.
Long Pepper has an essential oil of .5% - 1.0%.
What Is Long Pepper
Long pepper is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. Long Pepper has been used for centuries in African, Indian, Indonesian and Mediterranean cooking but is not popular in American or European cuisine. It has fallen into culinary obscurity in the past few hundred years and today is considered an exotic spice.
Long Pepper is closely related to black pepper, Piper nigrum. Long Pepper are tiny berries that merge into a long and conical shape about 1.5 inches long and slightly tapered. They are either used whole, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or broken up and used in a spice grinder. Their flavor is similar to black pepper but with more complexity. They are sweeter, somewhat earthy with gingery undertones.
History of Long Pepper
Long Pepper is native to the Indo-Malaya region and is found growing wild in the tropical rainforests of India. Most of Indomalaya was originally covered by forest and extends across most of South and Southeast Asia and into the southern parts of East Asia. Long Pepper was originally called by its Sanskrit name, pippali, which is the earliest predecessor to the word pepper.
Long pepper is believed to have been the first of the peppers to reach the Mediterranean and throughout antiquity (the beginning of recorded human history, about 3000 BC to approximately the 476 BC), it was significantly more popular than black pepper.
The oldest written reference to Long Pepper comes from ancient Indian Ayurveda textbooks (believed to have been written in the pre-Buddhist era, around the year 600 BC). In India, Long Pepper's primary use was for its medicinal properties, though it was also used to flavor food and wine. Long Pepper has an extensive history as a sexual enhancer and is written about in Kama Sutra (400-300 BC) describing a mixture of long pepper, black pepper, datura (a poisonous flowering plant), and honey.
Long pepper was a popular spice in ancient Greece (700 - 480 BC) and Rome (753 BC - 476 AD), it was a luxury spice that cost twice as much as black pepper. The history of Long Pepper is interlinked with (and often confused with) that of black pepper, even though the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus distinguished between the two in Historia Plantarum (written sometime between 350 - 287 BC), a ten volume set, that is considered the first work of botany.
The Romans knew of both and often referred to either as just "piper". Most Romans used this term so interchangeably that even Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 AD), the Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, wrote "Why do we like it so much? Some foods attract by sweetness, some by their appearance, but neither the pod [Long Pepper] nor the berry of pepper [black pepper] has anything to be said for it. We only want it for its bite - and we will go to India to get it!" It fetched twice the price of black pepper in Roman times.
Long Pepper remained popular in Europe long after the fall of Rome. Guillaume Tirel, known as Taillevent, who was one of the first truly "professional" master chefs as well as the chef to France's King Phillip VI (beginning in 1326), listed Long Pepper among the basic spices in his store cupboard.
Historically Long Pepper came west into the European region via overland trade routes from northern India. As new waterway trade routes opened up (1497 – 1499 AD), and became more established, black pepper became cheaper and flooded the market. Around this same period the spice Grains of Paradise, from West Africa, was quickly becoming the trendy spice of the wealthy.
The food historian Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (1926 - 2018) describes that the final nail in the coffin for Long Pepper was the arrival of chile peppers from the New World. For those that enjoyed the heat from these new peppers they became a natural substitute for Long Pepper. When it first arrived in Europe it was even referred to as the ‘American Long Pepper’. And, unlike Long Pepper, it easily adapted to natural cultivation practices throughout Europe and was easily cross bred making it more readily available.
By the early 1500s Long Pepper was essentially replaced by the Europeans with either black pepper (similar flavor and cheaper), Grains of Paradise (for the status symbol driven wealthy), and chile peppers (for their spicy heat).
Long Pepper Cultivation
Long pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, is a woody perennial plant that is native to India. Each plant can bear fruit for 4-5 years at which time the plant is replaced. Grown vegetatively by rooted vine cuttings which can either be directly planted in the field or rooted in a nursery and transplanted. Planted in raised beds, the vines need support for growth so they must be staked or grown up the side of trees. Long Pepper leaves are 2-3.5" long and 2" wide, lower leaves are broadly ovate and upper leaves are dark green and cordate with short petiole. Flowers are unisexual and are yellow-white to reddish in color, arranged in clusters on spike structures, with between 50-150 individual flowers on a spike. The flowers develop into rounded, berry-like, drupe fruits, each containing a single seed. Typically, 50-60 fruits are produced per flowering spike. The vines start fruiting 6 months after planting. The fruit is dark green when immature and blackish-green when fully mature.
A fully grown spike should be harvested before ripening when they start turning blackish green in color. Three to four pickings can be taken depending on the maturity of the spikes. The harvested spikes are sun dried for 4-5 days.
Long Pepper is mostly grown in India and Indonesia.
Where Is Our Long Pepper From
Depending on the time of year our Long Pepper may come from Indonesia or India.
What Is the Taste of Long Pepper
This spice closely resembles regular black pepper but is more complex with hints of sweetness, gingery undertones and slightly less heat.
Is Long Pepper the Same as Black Pepper
Long pepper and black pepper are closely related; both belong to the Piperaceae family. Given this close relationship it makes sense that they have much in common but, like all cousins, there also some significant differences.
One of the biggest similarities between these spices is that they get much of their signature bite and pungency from the same alkaloid compound - piperine. Long Pepper’s flavor profile is more subtle and complex than black peppercorns’ and which one packs more heat is one of the ongoing controversies between the two, but most flavor experts come down on the side of black pepper’s heat being the stronger of the two.
The most obvious difference between the two is in appearance. Long Pepper has a long and conical shape and is about 1.5 inches long and slightly tapered. Black Peppercorns are round, slightly wrinkled and, depending on the variety, about .2" in size.
Another difference is in availability. Peppercorns are the most widely traded spice in the world, accounting for 20% of the world trade in spices. Meanwhile Long Pepper, even with a resurgence in its popularity in recent years, continues to be at best an exotic spice with small demand and limited availability.
What Is Long Pepper Used For
You won't find many recipes calling specifically for Long Pepper, but like many spices considered exotic spices in the western world, Long Pepper is still frequently used by Indian, Malaysian, North African, and Pakistani cultures. In India, they are the key spice in many spice blends, or masalas, used for savory purposes.
Think of Long Pepper like a bridge between chile peppers and black pepper. When used in spice blends it adds considerable complexity and flavorful bite. We always recommend when using a new spice for the first time that you start off with smaller amounts so that you do not overwhelm a dish. You can always add more if your prefer.
Whole Long Pepper spikes can be added to marinades and stews. Use them in pickled vegetables or add them in soups the same way you might use a bay leaf (add early in the cooking process and remove before serving).
Like black pepper, it is typically ground before using to bring out its essential oils and flavors. Long Pepper can be used in most peppermills that grind black pepper. Use as a unexpected substitute for regular black pepper especially if you need a flavor slightly more complex than the typical sting of regular pepper.
Long pepper can be ground into a fine powder or a coarser grind and added to burgers, burritos, chicken stews, coleslaw, curries, fruity desserts, fresh fruit, grilled vegetables (especially artichokes, asparagus, and mushrooms), salads, slow cooked beef or lamb roasts, and steaks.
Long Pepper pairs well with anise seed, cardamom, coriander, juniper, and rosemary.
What Is a Substitute for Long Pepper
The best substitute choice for Long Pepper is Tellicherry Peppercorns with its citrus and pine notes. Use as a 1:1 substitute.
Our second choice would be Grains of Paradise at a 1 part Long Pepper to .5 part of Grains of Paradise.
Our third choice would be 1 part Long Pepper to .5 part Ground White Pepper + .25 part of either Ground Cardamon or Ground Nutmeg.
|Also Called||Pipli, long spice, or pippali|
|Recommended Uses||Add to burgers, burritos, chicken stews, coleslaw, curries, fruity desserts, fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, salads, roasts, and steaks|
|Flavor Profile||More complex with hints of sweetness, gingery undertones and slightly less heat than black pepper|
|Oil Content||.5% - 1.0%|
|Botanical Name||Piper longrum|
|Cuisine||Indian, Malaysian, North African, and Pakistani|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 years|
|Country of Origin||India or Indonesia|
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Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*