Although largely unknown today, Long Pepper has a rich history dating back centuries into early African, Indian, Indonesian and Mediterranean style cooking. Also known as piper longum, Pippali, Pipal, Bengal Pepper, Indonesian Long Pepper, Lada Panjong, Thippili, Java pepper or Javanese pepper in various regions around the world. Long Pepper is native to India and Indonesia and ours is grown in Indonesia.
The earliest Europeans to use pepper were the Greeks who called this spice peperi which originates from Sanskrit. When the empires of the Mediterranean transitioned from the Greeks to the Romans, the Roman’s became the region’s primary consumers of pepper . Roman cuisine was centered around Eastern spices with both regular black pepper and long pepper playing leading roles.
While early pepper aficionados would use both black pepper and long pepper almost interchangeably long pepper was preferred when greater heat was sought. The use of long pepper only began to decline with the discovery of the New World and the commercial transportation of chilé peppers began. Today, long pepper is only rarely used but it can be found in several North African spice blends, some Indian vegetable pickles as well as in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking.
While the flavor closely resembles regular black pepper it has a hotter taste with sweet and somewhat earthy, gingery undertones.
The brownish-black flower spikes of the long pepper consists of numerous tiny fruits, each similar in size to a poppy seed. While closely related to black pepper long pepper plants are quite unusual with flowering vines that possess large catkin flowers. The catkin flowers are typically harvested whole and are then dried for use in cooking.
Use long pepper as an intriguing substitute for regular black pepper. Helpful hint: use smaller amounts of long pepper when using in place of black pepper due to its strong heat, you can always add more if your prefer.
You won’t find many recipes calling specifically for Long Pepper but grind to a powder and add it to coleslaw, fresh fruit or experiment in any dish where it’s unique flavor characteristics aren’t overshadowed.