Grains of paradise are a zesty, peppery spice that has been harvested in West Africa and Europe for several centuries but is relatively unknown in the United States. The name is thought to have come from a story when back in Medieval times, spice traders boasted that the seeds grew only in Eden and were harvested as they floated down rivers out of paradise. Those stories also helped to boost the price of this exciting, rare spice. They have a similar appearance to black peppercorns and are often used as a substitute because of their warm, peppery flavor. Grains of paradise are part of the ginger family and also contain flavor notes of citrus, cardamom, coriander and ginger and are also referred to as Guinea Pepper, Alligator Pepper and Malaguita Pepper.
In the kitchen, grains of paradise are used in beer (such as Sam Adam’s Summer Ale), in spice breads such as gingerbread and cookies and as a special ingredient in mulled wine during the holiday season. It can also be ground down and mixed with kosher salt and sprinkled on steaks, chicken and pork before grilling or sautéing. North African curries include grains of paradise as a key flavoring agent and is a critical seasoning for dishes in Morocco, Ghana and Ethiopia.
Not only can grains of paradise be useful in the kitchen spice rack they are commonly used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The grains contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as being an anti-fungal and digestive aid.
Find grains of paradise here in the DFW area at Central Market locations in the bulk spice aisle or Pendery’s in Fort Worth. They can also be ordered online from igourmet.com or amazon.com. Ready to cook? Click here for recipes and remember to swap out the black pepper for grains of paradise.