It comes from berries that grow clumped together in a spike on a shrub. The plant is a perennial, but in January it dies back down to the ground.
The spikes look a bit like tiny, narrow pine cones, about 1 inch (2 to 3 cm) long, about 1/4 inch (5mm) wide
The spikes are harvested just before the berries fully ripen, then dried. When cut in half, the spikes reveal the seeds inside grown in a cartwheel formation.
In Morocco, Long Pepper is used in ras el hanout. In India, used in making the pickled mixtures known as “achar”; in Ethiopia, used in “wot.”
A closely related spice, Piper retrofractum, tastes the same, but grows in slightly shorter pods. It is used in Malaysia, Bali, and Java.
Piper retrofractum is not usually distinguished from Long Pepper in the spice trade.
White pepper with a bit of ground nutmeg, mace or cardamom.
Long Pepper is native to South Asia. It was being used in Europe before black pepper arrived.
The Romans preferred Long Pepper to black pepper; black pepper was only 1/3 the price in Rome.
In European magic, Long Pepper was part of the mixture that a dead man’s hand was dried in to make a “Hand of Glory.”
Was spelled “longe peper” in 14th English.
Pepper’s name was inherited from, ultimately, the Sanskrit name for Long Pepper, “pippali.”