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.