Grains of Paradise

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Grains of Paradise, Melegueta Pepper, Ginny Grains or Guinea Grains are an unusual spice, being a member of the ginger and cardamom family. The seeds of grains of paradise are brown, small seeds that are 2 mm (⅛ inch) in diameter. They are rare in European cooking nowadays, but grains of paradise are used to spice beer, particularly traditional Belgian beers.

Grains of paradise taste initially piny then peppery, hot, biting and numbing. Similarly, grains of paradise smell of camphor with notes of hints of pine and camphor.

Although little used, grains of paradise are good with lamb or mutton and with vegetables like eggplant and potatoes. Grains of paradise are best added at the end of a dish rather than at the start as their flavour will lessen during cooking.

Substitute: black pepper mixed with a little ground cardamom and ground ginger.

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN: 9780778804932.
  • McFadden, C. (2007) Pepper: the spice that changed the world, Absolute Press. ISBN: 9781904573609.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN: 9781465435989.