Unusual-Spice Rack: Grains of Paradise

Alligator pepper, Guinea grains, and Melegueta pepper make this pungent spice intriguing.

Description: Grains of Paradise are hard, aromatic, dark, round seeds from a leafy-stemmed shrub indigenous to West Africa, from Sierra Leone to Angola. They’re ground into many dishes as black pepper would be, especially slow-cooked stews and game dishes; fish with lemon; and shrimp, mussels, and roasted veggies, respectively. The flavor is initially like that of pine, and then peppery, hot, and biting.   

You might like to know: Grains of Paradise are often hard to find in Western countries, in part due to the name, which invokes perceptions of a mind-altering substance to drug-enforcement agencies. 

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Purported attribute: A member of both the ginger and cardamom families, Grains of Paradise has medicinal properties as a warming agent, stimulant, and digestive aid. 

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