Black pepper (piper nigrum), the friend to salt on your kitchen table, probably comes to you from Vietnam or Ethiopia, via thousands of years of discovery and spice trade.
But, there is another pepper, today a less known pepper, that competed for a place on tables hundreds of years ago, with a flavor described as a sort of sweet heat.
The Long Pepper (piper longum) was long famous in its native India, where it won a place in medicine and food. Later, it dominated Greek cooking when it appeared in the Mediterranean in the sixth century B.C., according to Gastro Obscura.
The long pepper fell into disuse when the Romans, by the fourth century A.D., were able to bring vast quantities of black pepper from Kerala, undercutting the price of long pepper. By the 1700s, long pepper had largely disappeared.
Long pepper is still available online, and it has reappeared as a key ingredient in pork ribs by Brooklyn barbecue restaurant, Fatty ‘Cue, which specializes in grilling, smoking and barbecuing.
Writer Sarah Laskow compared the flavors of the black and long peppers, saying that black pepper had a sharp and aggressive pop, while long pepper tended to linger and grow in power with a mellow, floral note.
Long pepper is good with fresh melon or pineapple, salads, or even in cocktails.
On the Web, search for long pepper for availability.