grains of paradise
Small brown round seeds indigenous to the west coast of Africa and used as a spice. This member of the ginger and cardamom family is also called alligator pepper, Guinea pepper and Melegueta pepper. Though hot and pungent, this spice has an exotic spicy quality that hints of ginger, cardamom, coriander, citrus and nutmeg. Grains of paradise was a popular spice in Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries but lost favor in the 15th and 16th centuries, when less expensive spices such as black pepper, cloves, mace and nutmeg became available. Outside of North Africa and the west coast of Africa, this spice is not widely used in everyday cooking. It can occasionally be found in gourmet markets and is usually available through mail order.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.