My only experience of this spice was when eating in South-East Asia. I've never cooked with it.
Long pepper plants
Long peppers ripening
Dried long peppers
|Species:||Piper longum, p. retrofractum.|
Southern Asia or South-East Asia.
The species p. longum is of Southern Asian origin, whereas the closely related plant p. retrofractum comes from South-East Asia and is mostly cultivated in Indonesia and Thailand. The two species are often not clearly distinguished in the spice trade.
The tiny berries, which merge to a single, rod-like structure bearing some resemblance to the catkin flowers of hazelnut or willow.
Piperaceae (pepper family).
Hot and warm, with sweet overtones.
Pepper and related words names in most other European tongues ultimately derive from the Sanskrit name of long pepper, pippali, which is of unknown etymology. Long pepper reached Europe earlier than the now more important black pepper and thus the latter inherited the name of the former.
The first Europeans to enjoy pepper were the Greeks, who called the spice peperi, which is close to the original Sanskrit word. When the dominion of the Mediterranean passed from the Greeks to the Romans, the latter also inherited the former's role as main pepper consumers. Late Roman cuisine depended heavily on both long and black pepper. In Latin, pepper was called piper and this remains the botanical genus name today. Species name longum is Latin for "long". Related species name retrofractum is a Latin composite from retro "backward" or "behind" (from re- "back" or "again" and -tro "inwardly"), a reference to the shape of the fruits.
The Latin piper is a progenitor of almost all names of pepper in contemporary European languages. Since words derived from Latin piper signify "black pepper" in all modern European languages, names of long pepper are usually formed with an adjective "long", e.g. Turkish uzun biber, Russian dlinnyj perets, Swedish långpeppar and French poivre long, all meaning "long pepper" (cf. also Slovak dlhé korenie "long spice" and Greek makropeperi "large pepper").
Long pepper came to Europe before the now dominant black pepper. It was highly priced during the Roman Empire (about three times the price of black pepper). With its taste both pungent and sweet, it was perfect for a Roman cuisine especially fond of these two taste sensations. In modern times long pepper is nearly unknown and often difficult to obtain.
In Asia, two different plants with exactly the same sensory properties are used. P. retrofractum from Indonesia has rods a little smaller than p. longum from India ("Bengal pepper"). In Western countries the latter is more commonly found. Long pepper is more pungent than black pepper and hence must be used with care. In India, the main application for long pepper is in spicy vegetable pickles (achar in Hindi).
Long pepper is also known and popular in parts of Africa, namely in the Islamic regions of Northern and Eastern Africa where it was introduced by Arab traders. Long pepper is sometimes found in the complex spice mixtures of Morocco (ras el hanout) and it is also of importance for the cuisine of Ethiopia, where long pepper is found in the traditional meat stews (wat), mostly together with black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and turmeric. Popular recipes are siga wat, lean beef cubes braised in a spicy, thick gravy made from chillies, onions and garlic and doro wat, a stew of chicken and hard-boiled eggs in similar gravy.