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Articles - A Healthy Diet:

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A peppery offering

In supermarkets, in specialist spice shops and on the Internet you’ll find a whole range of different types of pepper.

 

There’s real pepper – black, white and green – and other types of pepper. The test for “true” pepper is whether it is harvested from the evergreen pepper bush (Piper nigrum).

Different peppers, different flavours

Some other types of pepper are closely related to true pepper. They grow on bushes of species closely related to Piper nigrum. For example, there are long pepper (Piper longum) and Java pepper (Piper retrofractum). The berries of long pepper have grown together into sticks around 3 cm long and taste even hotter than true pepper. In most dishes that call for long pepper, the whole stalk is cooked in the dish and removed just before serving. Alternatively, long pepper can be ground and added as a powder. In traditional Ayurveda medicine, long pepper is recommended to stimulate digestion and as part of a detox. In the middle ages, cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba) was widely used in Europe as a cheap substitute for black pepper. The brownish-black cubeb peppercorns taste spicy and slightly bitter with overtones of eucalyptus. It’s advisable to use cubeb pepper sparingly, at least at first. It’s an ingredient in the Moroccan ras el hanout spice mix and cooks who use it often combine it with true pepper and cinnamon.

Szechuan and cayenne pepper

Szechuan pepper is the seed of plants like Zanthoxylum piperitum a member of the Rutaceae family, related to citrus fruits like limes and oranges. The fruit are broken open to extract the seeds. Szechuan pepper tastes really hot and spicy with a delicious lemony flavour. It’s used in oriental cookery to flavour poultry, fish and tofu and it harmonizes well with other flavours like garlic and ginger. Use it cautiously until you’re sure you like the flavour. Cayenne pepper is probably better known than Szechuan pepper, but it actually has nothing to do with true pepper. The red pepper is actually produced by grinding up cayenne chillies (Capsicum annuum). It is one of the hottest spices and is used in many Indian, Indonesian and Chinese dishes.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de