We had never heard of ashanti pepper until we visited The Meadow
in Portland but once we brought some home, this West African spice quickly became one of our favorite alternatives to common black pepper
. Ashanti or West African pepper comes from the Piper guineense
plant, a relative of black and cubeb peppers. Although common in medieval Europe, ashanti pepper fell into obscurity, overshadowed by the more popular black pepper. It has a slight bitterness that makes it less versatile than black pepper but we love its peppery bite and fresher, almost fruity flavor and notes of allspice and clove. Crushed or ground, it makes an interesting addition to stews and braises, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
If you're familiar with cubeb pepper, ashanti pepper is similar, and in fact it is sometimes referred to as a false cubeb. However, the smaller ashanti pepper berry is reddish in color with a curved rather than straight stalk, and the flavor is less bitter. We now prefer it to cubeb.
Have you ever cooked with ashanti pepper?
Related: From the Spice Cupboard: Selim Kili
(Image: Emily Ho)