Friday, February 29, 2008

Balinese Long Pepper

Something new appeared not too long ago in the spice aisle at the supermarket: Balinese Long Pepper.

Is this the long pepper of ancients, as the box implies?

Once hailed by Romans as the ultimate peppery spice, wild long peppers soon disappeared into culinary obscurity with the agricultural domestication of their cousin, the modern peppercorn.

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The product page gives more information on its source and confirms that these are Piper retrofractum. The genus Piper has been and continues to be of enormous economic importance, mostly for spices like black pepper, but also traditional drugs like betel and kava. Here is a review of almost 600 bioactive compounds, mostly medicines and pesticides, and which Piper species they were isolated from. The Wikipedia Piper page lists retrofractum and it gets a brief mention on the Long pepper page. As always, a better inventory of the scientific and common names is given by the M.M.P.N.D. and Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages.

Theophrastus knew both black pepper and long pepper:

Τὸ δὴ πέπερι καρπὸς μέν ἐστι διττὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος· τὸ μὲν γὰρ στρογγύλον ὥσπερ ὄροβος, κέλυφος ἔχον καὶ σάρκα καθάπερ αἱ δαφνίδες, ὑπέρυθρον· τὸ δὲ πρόμηκες μέλαν σπερμάτια μηκωνικὰ ἔχον· ἰσχυρότερον δὲ πολὺ τοῦτο θατέρου· θερμαντικὰ δὲ ἄμφω· δ᾽ ὃ καὶ πρὸς τὸ κώνειον βοηθεῖ ταῦτά τε καὶ ὁ λιβανωτός. (HP Book IX, Chap. 20, 1)

Pepper is a fruit, and there are two kinds: one is round like bitter vetch, having a case and flesh like the berries of bay, and it is reddish: the other is elongated and black and has seeds like those of poppy: and this kind is much stronger then the other. Both however are heating: wherefore these, as well as frankincense, are used as antidotes for poisoning by hemlock. (tr. Hort)

Dioscorides additionally describes white pepper, and begins a confusion that would persist for some time that all three kinds come from the same plant:

1. πέπερι δένδρον ἱστορεῖται φυόμενον ἐν Ἰνδίᾳ, καρπὸν δὲ ἀνίησι κατ᾽ ἀρχὰς μὲν προμήκη καθάπερ λοβούς, ὅπερ ἐστὶ τὸ μακρὸν πέπερι, ἔχον τὸ ἐντὸς κέγχρῳ παραπλήσιον, τὸ μελλόν ἔσεσθαι τέλειον πέπερι, ὅπερ κατὰ τοὺς οἰκείους ἀναπλούμενον χρόνους βότρυας ἀνίησι, κόκκους φέροντας οἷον ἐρρυσωμένους, τοὺς δὲ καὶ ὀμφακώδεις, οἵτινές εἰσι τὸ λευκὸν πέπερι, εὐτεθοῦν μάλιστα εἰς τὰ ὀμφαλμικὰ καὶ ἀντιδότους καὶ θηριακὰς δυνάμεις.

2. ἔστι δὲ τὸ μὲν μακρὸν διὰ τὸ ἄωρον ἐπιτηδειότερον εἰς τὰς ἀντιδότους καὶ θηριακὰς δυνάμεις, τὸ δὲ μέλαν δριμύτερον τοῦ λευκοῦ καὶ εὐστομώτερον καὶ μᾶλλον ἀρωματίζον διὰ τὸ εἶναι ὥριμον, εὐχρηστότερόν τε εἰς τὰς ἀρτύσεις, τὸ δὲ λευκὸν ὀμφακίζον, ἀσθενέστερον τῶν προειρημένον. ἐκλέγου δὲ τὸ βαρύτατον καὶ πλῆρες, μέλαν, μὴ σφόδρα ῥυσόν, πρόσφατον καὶ μὴ πιτυρῶδες. εὑρίσκεται δέ τι ἐν τῷ μέλανι ἄτροφον, κεκὸν καὶ κοῦφον, ὃ καλεῖται βρέγμα. (Book II, Chap. 159, 1-2)

1. The pepper is said to be a tree that grows in India. It produces fruit, which is at first oblong like pods; this is the long pepper, the contents of which nearly resemble millet; it will eventually become mature pepper. Unfolding at the right time, it makes clusters that bear peppercorns like the ones we know; some of them are even like unripe grapes, which are the white pepper, highly useful for eye medications, antidotes, and preparations for poisonous bites.

2. The long pepper, when it is unripe, is more suitable to use in antidotes and for medications against poisonous bites; the black pepper, on the other hand, is sharper than the white, tastier, and more aromatic, because it is ripe. It is also more useful in dressings. The white pepper, being unripe, is weaker than the one mentioned before. Choose that which is very heavy, full, black, not very wrinkled, fresh, and not bran-like. Among the black pepper, one finds something that is devoid of nutritional value, empty, and light. It is called bregma. (tr. Beck)

Likewise Pliny, who also notes the relative prices of the three pepper spices and moralizes on their use:

26. … Passim vero quæ piper gignunt junipiris nostris similes, quanquam in fronte Caucasi solibus opposita gigni tantum eas aliqui tradidere. Semina a junipiro distant parvulis siliquis, quales in faseolis videmus. Hæ, priusquam dehiscant decerptæ tostæque Sole, faciunt quod vocatur piper longum: paulatim vero dehiscentes maturitate, ostendunt candidum piper, quod deinde tostum Solibus colore rugisque mutatur.

27. Verum et iis sua injuria est, atque cœli intemperie carbunculantur, fiuntque semina cassa et inania, quod vocant brecma, sic Indorum lingua significante mortuum. Hoc ex omni genere asperrimum est, levissimumque, et pallidum. Gratius nigrum: lenius utroque candidum.

28. Non est hujus arboris radix, ut aliqui existimavere, quod vocant zingiberi, alii vero zimpiberi, quanquam sapore simili. Id enim in Arabia atque Trogodytica in villis nascitur, parvæ herbæ, radice candida. Celeriter ea cariem sentit, quamvis in tanta amaritudine. Pretium ejus in libras VI. Piper longum facillime adulteratur Alexandrino sinapi. Emitur in libras X. XV. Album X. VII. nigrum X. IV.

29. Usum ejus adeo placuisse mirum est. In aliis quippe suavitas cepit, in aliis species invitavit: huic nec pomi nec bacæ commendatio est aliqua: sola placere amaritudine, et hanc in Indos peti. Quis ille primus experiri cibis voluit? aut cui in appetenda aviditate esurire non fuit satis? Utrumque silvestre gentibus suis est et tamen pondere emitur ut aurum vel argentum. … (Book XII, Chap. 14 / 7)

26. … In every part we meet with trees that bear pepper, very similar in appearance to our junipers, although, indeed, it has been alleged by some authors that they only grow on the slopes of Caucasus which lie exposed to the sun. The seeds, however, differ from those of the juniper, in being enclosed in small pods similar to those which we see in the kidney-bean. These pods are picked before they open, and when dried in the sun, make what we call “long pepper.” But if allowed to ripen, they will open gradually, and when arrived at maturity, discover the white pepper; if left exposed to the heat of the sun, this becomes wrinkled, and changes its colour.

27. Even these productions, however, are subject to their own peculiar infirmities, and are apt to become blasted by the inclemency of the weather; in which case the seeds are found to be rotten, and mere husks. These abortive seeds are known by the name of “bregma,” a word which in the Indian language signifies “dead.” Of all the various kinds of pepper, this is the most pungent, as well as the very lightest, and is remarkable for the extreme paleness of its colour. That which is black is of a more agreeable flavour; but the white pepper is of a milder quality than either.

28. The root of this tree is not, as many persons have imagined, the same as the substance known as zimpiberi, or, as some call it, zingiberi, or ginger, although it is very like it in taste. For ginger, in fact, grows in Arabia and in Troglodytica, in various cultivated spots, being a small plant with a white root. This plant is apt to decay very speedily, although it is of intense pungency; the price at which it sells is six denarii per pound. Long pepper is very easily adulterated with Alexandrian mustard; its price is fifteen denarii per pound, while that of white pepper is seven, and of black, four.

29. It is quite surprising that the use of pepper has come so much into fashion, seeing that in other substances which we use, it is sometimes their sweetness, and sometimes their appearance that has attracted our notice; whereas, pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India! Who was the first to make trial of it as an article of food? and who, I wonder, was the man that was not content to prepare himself by hunger only for the satisfying of a greedy appetite? Both pepper and ginger grow wild in their respective countries, and yet here we buy them by weight--just as if they were so much gold or silver. … (tr. Bostock & Riley)

The word for pepper in many European languages is derived from Latin piper or Greek πέπερι. For example, French poivre, German Pfeffer, Russian пе́рец (explanations of that derivation by Aronson and Vasmer). For P. longum a qualified form based on its size is used, like long pepper; and for P. retrofractum a further geographical qualification like Javanese long pepper. (Russian, which has длинный перец 'long pepper' and яванский перец 'Javanese pepper', also has колосковый перец 'spike pepper', which Gernot Katzer's Spice Page lists for P. officinarum, now a synonym of P. retrofractum. Also see comments.) In some languages like English, pepper is also used for the unrelated chili pepper.

After quoting the passage given above from Theophrastus, Athenaeus' Deipnosophists deduces that πέπερι must be a foreign word:

τοῦτο δ᾽ ἡμᾶς τηρῆσαι δεῖ, ὅτι οὐδέτερον ὄνομα οὐδέν ἐστι παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν εἰς ι λῆγον εἰ μὴ μόνον τὸ μέλι. τὸ γὰρ πέπερι καὶ κόμμι και κοῖφι ζενικά. (Book II, Chap. 73)

But we must recollect that, properly speaking, there is no noun of the neuter gender among the Greeks ending in ι, except μέλι alone; for the words πέπερι, and κόμμι, and κοῖφι are foreign. (tr. Yonge)

(μέλι 'honey', κόμμι 'gum', κοῖφι 'incense' (< Egyptian k3p.t). An Aldine Press edition of the Deipnosophistarum is included in the Swann sale early next month, but the combination of gastronomic and gay interest drives the price pretty high.)

The source is an Indian word for 'long pepper', such as Sanskrit पिप्पलि pippali / पिप्पली pippalī. The latter version occurs in the Atharvaveda, the earliest text dealing with Indian medicine, as some kind of berry, possibly the pepper-corn:

पिप्पली क्षिप्तभेषज्य उतातिविद्धभेषजी ।
तां देवाः सम अकल्पयन्न इयं जीवितवा अलम ॥१॥

pippalī kṣiptabheṣajy utātividdhabheṣajī |
tāṃ devāḥ sam akalpayann iyaṃ jīvitavā alam ||1|| (Book VI, Chap. 109)

1. The pepper-corn cures the wounds that have been struck by missiles, it also cures the wounds from stabs. … (tr. Bloomfield)

1. The berry, remedy for what is bruised, and remedy for what is pierced — … (tr. Whitney)

Unicode does not do a complete enough job of encoding Vedic accent yet. For those with the Sanskrit 2003 font installed, which uses Private Use Characters, here it is again:

पि॒प्प॒ली क्षि॑प्तभेष॒ज्यु॒३ताति॑विद्धभेष॒जी ।
तां दे॒वाः स॑मकल्पयन्नि॒यं जीवि॑त॒वा अल॑म् ॥१॥

pippalī́ kṣiptabheṣajy ùtā́tividdhabheṣajī |
tā́ṃ devā́ḥ sám akalpayann iyáṃ jī́vitavā́ álam ||1||

Its use is also described in the Suśruta Samhita, an important work of Ayurvedic medicine:

तेषां गुर्वी स्वाटुशीता पिप्पल्यार्द्रा कफावहा ॥
शुष्का कफानिलघ्नी सा वृष्य पित्ताविरोधिनी ॥२२३॥ (Sūtra-sthāna, Chap. XLVI)

teṣāṃ gurvī svāṭuśītā pippalyārdrā kaphāvahā
śuṣkā kaphānilaghnī sā vṛṣya pittāvirodhinī

Of them, fresh long pepper is heavy, spicy and cold, and causes phlegm;
Dry removes phlegm, it is an aphrodisiac, and dispels bile.

An Ayurvedic cure-all is त्रिकटु trikaṭu 'three pungents', a equal mixture of पिप्पली pippalī 'long pepper',  मरिच marica 'black pepper' and शुण्ठी śuṇṭhi 'dried ginger'.

Since a word for long pepper was borrowed, it is supposed that this was the first kind of pepper traded and so the first known to Europe. The same word is borrowed into Persian: فلفل filfil 'pepper', دار فلفل dār-filfil 'long (lit. wood) pepper'; and these into Arabic. There is an entry on long pepper in Al-Muwaffak's كتاب الأبنية عن حقائق الأدوية Kitāb al-abniyah ʻan ḥaqāʼiq al-adwiyah 'Book of the foundations of the realities of remedies', the first Persian materia medica, but this seems to only be online in the German translation. The critical edition of the original is snippets, which is confusing because it was published in 1859 and useless, since Google Books does not do OCR of Arabic script.

And into Chinese. Many terms for pepper involve 椒 jiao1, originally some sort of native Chinese pepper plant: 秦椒 or 蓁椒 qin2jiao1 'Chinese pepper', 花椒 hua1jiao1 'flower pepper', 山椒 shan1jiao1 'mountain pepper' and 蜀椒 shu3jiao1 or 川椒 chuan1jiao1 'Szechuan pepper' are varieties of Chinese or Szechuan pepper. 胡椒 hu2jiao1, black pepper, and 番椒 fan1jiao1, Capsicum annuum (hot or not), both literally mean 'foreign pepper', 胡 hu2 being a foreigner from the North and 番 fan1 a foreigner from the South, such as the Malay archipelago. Along these lines, 長椒 chang2jiao1 is literally 'long pepper'. But long pepper is also known as 蓽撥 bi4bo1 (simplified 荜拨), particularly in materia medica; this is also spelled 蓽茇 bi4ba2. The Bencao Gangmu entry for 蓽茇 bi4ba2 additionally lists 畢勃 bi4bo2, all of which suggests that the word is borrowed. And in fact, the entry says that in the language of 摩伽陀 mo2jia1tuo2 (Māgadha; in other words, in Māgadhī Prākrit), it is called 蓽撥梨 bi4bo1li2. Which is to say, पिप्पली pippalī. (At least in Pāli, this is pipphalī, with unetymological aspiration, which Geiger says is not rare: the word occurs, for instance, in the “Godha-Jātaka” 'Iguana Birth-Story', where the future Buddha has been reborn as a lizard and meets a wicked ascetic who has developed a taste for lizard meat, which he means to so season; text; translation.) It also says that in 拂林 fu2lin2 (Constantinople), it is called 阿梨訶陀 a1li2he1tou2. The entry further mentions the derivative medicine 蓽勃沒 bi4bo2mo4, which is presumably पिप्पलीमूल pippalī-mūla, literally 'long pepper root'.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of spices, and pepper in particular, in long-distance trade, exploration, and imperialism. So Persius:

Mercibus hic Italis mutat, sub sole recenti,
Rugosum piper, et pallentis grana cumini: (Sat. V, 55-56)

The greedy merchants, led by lucre, run
To the parch'd Indies, and the rising sun;
From thence hot pepper and rich drugs they bear,
Bart'ring for spices their Italian ware; (tr. Dryden)

In Sanskrit, यवनप्रिय yavanapriya 'dear to Yavanas (literally, Ionians, that is, Greeks, that is, Western foreigners)' refers to pepper and यवनेष्ट yavaneṣṭa 'liked by Yavanas' to onion, garlic, neem and lead as well as pepper. In the sense of pepper, the latter appears in Tamil as இவனட்டம் ivaṉaṭṭam. The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, from the mid 1st century, lists long pepper among the products available from northwest India around Barygaza (Βαρύγαζα; 49, 16; sort-of translation) and black pepper from southwest in Muziris and Nelcynda (Μουζιρίς / Νέλκυνδα; 56, 18; translation). A poem in the Tamil Akanāṉūṟu of about the same time describes the vessels of the Yavanas (யவனர் yavaṉar) in Muziris (முசிறி muciṟi), “பொன்னொடு வந்து கறியொடு பெயரும் poṉṉoṭu vantu kaṟiyoṭu peyarum 'arriving with gold, returning with pepper'” (149, 10; a similar image is in the புறநானூறு Puṟanāṉūṟu 343, 3-5, translation).

When Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut on May 20, 1498, he sent ashore one of the recently converted convicts brought for that purpose, who being asked by some Moors why they had come so far, responded, “Vimos buscar cristãos e especiaria 'we came in search of Christians and spice'.” (Diário; translation; the conversation supposedly actually took place in Castilian; strangely enough, a number of works related to perfume report that da Gama's men called out “Christos e espiciarias” in the sense of 'for Christ and spices', but that seems suspect to me). Later, when it was time for a hasty departure before the regular arrival of some Arab ships that posed a threat, he makes sure to take some pepper. According to Camões' Os_Lusíadas:

Leva alguns Malabares, que tomou
Por força, dos que o Samorim mandara
Quando os presos feitores lhe tornou;
Leva pimenta ardente, que comprara;
A seca flor de Banda não ficou,
A noz, e o negro cravo, que faz clara
A nova ilha Maluco, com a canela,
Com que Ceilão é rica, ilustre e bela. (Canto IX, 14)

He taketh eke some Malabars aboard
    parforce, the fellows by the Samorim sent
    when were the Factor-pris'oners restor'd:
    Of purchased stores he taketh hot piment:
    Nor is of Banda the dried flow'er ignor'd,
    nutmeg and swarthy clove, which excellent
makes New Malucan Isle, with cinnamon
the wealth, the boast, the beauty of Ceylon. (tr. Burton)

On Jan. 28, 1793, Britain entered into a “Pepper Contract” with the Rajah of Travancore, which mostly amounted to a regular trade of pepper for guns and ammunition.

With exploration came greater knowledge of the pepper plants themselves. In 522, Cosmas Indicopleustes visited the Malabar Coast. (Overzealous linking in Wikipedia had confused Cosmas' calling Malabar Male with Malé in the Maldives.) He writes:

Τοῦτο τὸ δένδρον ἐστὶ τὸ τοῦ πιπέρεως·
ἕκαστον δὲ δένδρον ἑτέρῳ ὑψηλῷ ἀκάρπῳ δένδρῳ ἀνακλᾶται διὰ τὸ λεπτὸν εἶναι πάνυ καὶ ἀσθενές, ὥσπερ καὶ τὰ κλήματα τῆς ἀμπέλου λεπτά·
ἕκαστος δὲ βότρυς δίφυλλον ἔχει σκέπον·
χλωρὸν δὲ πάνυ ἐστίν, ὥσπερ ἡ χρόα τοῦ πηγάνου.
(Topographia Christiana, 11, 10)

This is a picture of the tree which produces pepper. Each separate stem being very weak and limp twines itself, like the slender tendrils of the vine, around some lofty tree which bears no fruit. And every cluster of the fruit is protected by a double leaf. It is of a deep green colour like that of rue. (tr. McCrindle)

The work of a 10th century herbalist who wrote under the name of Macer Floridus published as De viribus herbarum in 1477 continues to recognize three kinds:

Virtutis siccæ piper asseritur calidæque,
Tertius esse gradus conceditur huic in utroque.
Tres sunt huic species : album, longumque, nigrumque; (1477 edition; later with more legible scan)

Pepper claims dry and hot virtue,
It is accepted to be both of the third degree in both these.
There are three kinds: white, long and black;

The Anglo-Saxon medical text known as Bald's Leechbook includes a remedy with both pepper and long pepper, indicating how broad the trade was in Europe:

ı ſcal ƿıð aaoum maan · ním hunı ⁊ c oæ mn ⁊ bann pıpo l ón monn cucl uln nahnıum nyı ſcapa ıncna· ⁊ ma· ⁊ æ baþ mı ſınop nı ⁊ mƿ. l hím ác nahnıum þı · nım c ƿıþ lænan mn hƿæthƿa ⁊ lan pıpo .x. con oþþ coppan ⁊ ſnp mn all oæ · ⁊ ıolı l nıhnſıum an cucl mæl · þnc ðu þonn hƿæþn  all þa æ nmnan læcoma ⁊ þa æ ƿınan n ſculon ón an þa o lan bón o on ác ſculon æc habban bonum ⁊ ſ · hƿılum n aaſ hƿılum ƿy · ⁊ þonn hım món blo læ ón æ ón þam aúm n o hím mon nann oþn læcóm o · nymþ ymb .v. nıh oþþ ma. (Book II, Chap. 7; I am using the Junicode font for the MUFI PUA, even though its philosophy is somewhat un-Unicode)

This shall apply for a deadened maw; take some honey and vinegar mingled together, and pepper beaten up, give in the morning a spoon full of it to the man after his nights fast, let him employ sharp drinks and meats; and at the bath let him rub and smear himself with mustard. Give him also, after his nights fast, this: take vinegar mingled with somewhat of gladden, and of long pepper ten corns or clusters, and mustard; mingle all together, and triturate; give him after a nights fasting, one spoon measure. Then consider thou, notwithstanding, that all the aforenamed leechdoms and the after written ones, shall not be to be done at one too long season, but must have space and rest between them, whilom two days, whilom three; and when one lets him blood on a vein, on those days let none other leechdom be done to him, except about five days later or more. (tr. Cockayne)

Simon Januensis, a lexicographer and court physician to Nicholas IV, wrote a dictionary of medicine titled Clavis Sanationis or Synonyma medicinae in 1292; it was first printed in 1473. He lists synonyms for longum piper, Greek macropiper and Arabic darfulfel.

Sir John Mandeville has much to say that is interesting, if not credible. From an early English translation (in a Midlands dialect; none of the French versions seems to be readily available):

And ȝee schulle undirstonde, þat þe Peper groweþe, in maner as doþe a wylde Vyne, þat is planted faste by þe Trees of þat Wode, for to susteynen it by, as doþe þe Vyne. And þe Fruyt þereof hangeþe in manere as Reysynges. And þe Tree is so þikke charged, þat it semeþe þat it wolde breke: and whan it is ripe, it is all grene as it were Ivy Beryes; and þan men kytten hem, as men don þe Vynes, and þan þei putten it upon an Owven, and þere it waxeþe blak and crisp. And þere is 3 maner of Peper, all upon o Tree; long Peper, blak Peper, and white Peper. Þe long Peper men clepen Sorbotyn; and þe blak Peper is clept Fulfulle, and þe white Peper is clept Bano. Þe long Peper comeþe first, whanþe Lef begynheþe to come; and it is lyche þe Chattes of Haselle, þat comeþe before þe Lef, and it hangeþe lowe. And aftre comeþe þe blake wiþ þe Lef, in manere of Clustres of Reysinges, alle grene: and whan men han gadred it, þan comeþe þe white, þat is somdelle lasse þan þe blake; and of þat men bryngen but litille into þis Contree; for þei beȝonden wiþ holden it for hem self, be cause it is betere and more attempree in kynde, þan þe blake: and þerfore is þer not so gret plentee as of þe blake. In þat contree ben manye manere of Serpentes and of oþer Vermyn, for þe gret hete of þe Contree and of þe Peper. And sūme men seyn, þat whan þei will gadre þe Peper, þei maken Fuyr, and brennen aboute, to make þe Serpentes and Cokedrilles to flee. But save here grace of alle þat seyn so. For ȝif þei brenten abouten þe Trees, þat beren, þe Peper scholden ben brent, and it wolde dryen up alle þe vertue, as of ony oþer þing: and han þei diden hemself moche harm; and þei scholde nevere quenchen þe Fuyr. But þus þei don; þei anoynten here Hondes and here Feet wiþ a juyce made of Snayles and of oþere þinges, made þerfore; of þe whiche þe Serpentes and þe venymous Bestes haten and dreden þe Savour: and þat makeþe hem flee before hem, because of þe smelle; and þan þei gadren it seurly ynow. (p. 168 of Halliwell's 1839 reprint of the 1725 edition, with z restored to ȝ and th to þ, per Vogel; edition with modernized spelling; there don't seem to be any actual facsimiles of Cotton Titus C. xvi around)

As outlined above, all three kinds of pepper from one tree was what the ancients believed. Of sorbotin, fulful, and bano, only the second is recognizable as the word for pepper; I have not seen any theories for either the literary source or the intended source language of the other two.

As for serpents guarding the pepper, the use of fire to chase them away and heat causing black pepper to turn black, much of it is in Odoric, Mandeville's primary source:

Now in this country they get the pepper in this manner. First, then, it groweth on plants which have leaves like ivy, and these are planted against tall trees as our vines are here, and bear fruit just like bunches of grapes; and this fruit is borne in such quantities that they seem like to break under it. And when the fruit is ripe it is of a green colour, and 'tis gathered just as grapes are gathered at the vintage, and then put in the sun to dry. And when it is dried it is stored in jars [and of the fresh pepper also they make a confection, of which I had to eat, and plenty of it]. And in this forest also there be rivers in which be many evil crocodiles, i.e. serpents. [And there be many other kinds of serpents in the forest, which the men burn by kindling tow and straw, and so they are enabled to go safely to gather pepper.] [And here there be lions in great numbers, and a variety of beasts which are not found in our Frank countries. And here they burn the brazil-wood for fuel, and in the woods are numbers of wild peacocks.] (tr. Yule)

Yule's translation is a synthesis of several originals: a Latin MS in the BNF, included as Appendix I; an Old Italian MS in the Biblioteca Palatina, included as Appendix II; another Latin  text published by Hakluyt; and Cordier's edition of an Old French MS. The appendices are in the same volume (II) of the Indian reprint (similar to one I have) as the above preview, but they are also in a separate volume of an older edition with full view, which is where those links go, though the English volume of that set does not seem to have been scanned. Google's scan of the Old French only has the introductory section, either because it was separately bound in the set scanned or because the scan's pagination is messed up; there aren't enough pages in the scan to account for the number given in the Google Books meta-data, either. Yule's footnotes 3 and 4 are backwards: the first text, mentioning “forest,” is from Hakluyt and the other one from Palantina. Anyway.

All the texts have crocodiles, variously cocoldrigae, crocodili, cocodrilli, cochodrillos, and cocolgrilli. The Italian mentions the candy and lions and peacocks:

E del pepe ricente fanno composto e io ne mangiai, ed ebbine assai. … e leoni in grande moltitudine, e diverse bestie che non sono in Franchia. Qui si arde il verzino per legne, e tutti i boschi son pieni di paoni salvatichi. (preview)

And the Hakluyt Latin burning the forest:

In isto autem nemore sunt flumina multa in quibus sunt Crocodili multi, & multi alii serpentes sunt in illo nemore, quos homines per stupam & paleas comburunt, & sic ad colligendum piper secure accedunt. (here)

The basic outline of this process of gathering pepper into the three kinds was well known; for instance, the encyclopedist Bartholomaeus Anglicus:

Piper est semen vel fructus arboris ut fruticis in meriodionali parte caucasi montis crescentis contra fervidum aestum solis. ut dicit Isidorus liber xvij cuius folia junipero sunt similia / cuius siluas serpentes custodiunt; sed incole regionis illius cum silue maturae fuerint / eas incendunt, et serpentes ignis violentia effugantur & ex huius combustione grana piperis que naturaliter erant alba / effiaunt nigra accidentaliter & rugosa. Cuius triplex est species ut dicit idem. Nam est piper longum species quod est imaturum & piper album species quod ab igne incorruptum. & piper nigrum quod torrido calore ignis nigrum est in superficie & rugosum. (Book 17)

Pepir hyghte piper: and is a ſede other the fruyte of a tree that growyth in the ſouth ſide of the hyll mount Caucaſus, in the ſtronge hete of the ſun, as Dyaſcorides ſayth. .li xvij. /  The leuys therof ben lyke to leuys of Juniperus. And ſerpentes kepe the wodes that pepyr growyth in. And whan the wodes of pepper ben rype: men of that countree ſettyth them on fyre, & chacyth awaye ſerpentes by vyolence of fyre/ And by ſuche brennyng the greyne of pepyr yͭ was white by kynde is made blacke and ryuely. And of pepyr ben thre manere kyndes as he ſayth / for ſome pepyr is longe: and that is not rype. Some is whyte: and that is not corrupt by fyre ne blemyſhed wyth fyre. And ſome is blacke and ryvelyd wythout wyth perchynge & roſtynge of the hete of yͤ fyre. (tr. Trevisa in EEBO)

Which is essentially the same as Bartholomaeus' named source, Isidore_of_Seville's Etymologies, which also proposes an etymology of piper / πέπερι:

Piperis arbor nascitur in India, in latere montis Caucasi, quod soli obversum est, folia iuniperi similitudine. Cuius silvas serpentes custodiunt, sed incolae regionis illius, quum maturae fuerint, incendunt, et serpentes igni fugantur; et inde ex flamma nigrum piper efficitur. Nam natura piperis alba est, cuius quidem diversus est fructus. Nam quod inmaturum est, piper longum vocatur, quod incorruptum ab igni, piper album; quod vero cute rugosa et horrida fuerit, ex calore ignis trahit et colorem et nomen. Piper si leve est, vetustum est; si grave, novellum. Vitanda est autem mercatorum fraus; solent enim vetustissimo piperi humecto argenti spumam aut plumbum aspargere ut ponderosum fiat. (Book XVII, Chap. 8, p. 87 of an early printed version; also etext)

The pepper tree (piper) grows in India, on the side of the Caucasian range that faces the sun. Its leaves are like the juniper's. Serpents protect the pepper groves, but the inhabitants of that region, when the peppers ripen, burn them, and the serpents are put to flight by the fire - and from this flame the pepper, which is naturally white, is made black. In fact there are several kinds of pepper fruits. The unripe kind is called 'long pepper'; that unaffected by fire, ‘white pepper’; but that which has a wrinkled and bristly skin takes both its color (i.e. ‘black’) and its name (cf. πῦρ, “fire”) from the heat of the fire. If a pepper is light in weight it is old; if heavy, it is fresh. But the fraud of the merchants should be guarded against, for they are wont to sprinkle litharge or lead over very old, moistened pepper to make it heavy. (tr. Barney)

A less fanciful traveler's account is given by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela:

הַפִּלְפֵּל שֶׁהֵם נוֹטְעִים הָאִילָנוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶם עַל פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה כָּל הָעִיר וְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶם יוֹדֵעַ פַּרְדֵּסוֹ וְאִילָנוֹת קְטַנּוֹת הֵן וְהַפִּלְפֵּל לָבָן הוּא אֲבָל כְּשֶׁלּוֹקְטִין אוֹתוֹ מְשִׂימִין אוֹתוֹ בָּאַגָּנוֹת וְנוֹתְנִין עָלָיו מַיִם הַמִּים וּמְיַבְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ לַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְחַוֵּק וְיִתְקַיֵּים וְהוּא חוֹזֵר שָׁחוֹר (p. 91.1)

hapilpēl šehēm nōṭʻīm hāʼīlānōṯ šellāhem ʻal pənēy haśśāḏeh kāl hāʻīr wəḵāl eḥāḏ wəʼeḥāḏ mēhem yōḏēʻa pardēsō wəīlānōṯ qəṭannōṯ hēn wəhapilpēl lāḇān hūʼ ăḇāl kəšellōqəṭīn ōṯō məśīmīn ōṯō bāʼagānōṯ wənōṯənīn ʻālāyw mayim hammīm ūməyabšīn ōṯō laššemeš kəḏēy šeyīṯəḥawēq wəyiṯqayēym wəhūʼ ḥōzēr šāḥōr

The pepper grows in this country; the trees, which bear this fruit are planted in the fields, which surround the towns, and every one knows his plantation. The trees are small and the pepper is originally white, but when they collect it, they put it into basins and pour hot water upon it; it is then exposed to the heat of the sun and dried in order to make it hard and more substantial, in the course of which process it becomes of a black colour. (tr. Asher)

The idea of burning was widespread enough that it had to be addressed by Ibn Battuta:

والعامة ببلادنا يزعمون أنّهم يقلونه بالنار وبسبب ذلك يحدث فيه التكريش وليس كذلك وإنما يحدث ذلك فيه بالشمس ولقد رأيته بمدينة قالقوط يصبّ للكيل كالذرة ببلادنا (Voyages, Vol. IV, p. 77)

wa-ʼl-ʿāmmah bi-bilādinā yazʿumūna ʾannahum yaqlūna-hu bi-ʼl-nnāri wa-bisababi ḏālika yuḥdiṯu fī-hi al-takrīša wa-laysa kaḏālika wa-ʾinnamā yuḥdiṯu ḏālika fī-hi bi-ʼl-ššamsi wa-laqad raʾaytuhu bi-madīnahi qāliqūṭ yaṣubba li-l-kayli ka-ʼl-ḏḏurahi bi-bilādinā

Most people in our country suppose that they roast them with fire and it is because of that they become crinkled, but it is not so since this results only from the action of the sun upon them. I have seen pepper grains in the city of Qāliqūṭ being poured out for measuring by the bushel, like millet in our country. (tr. Gibb)

And Jordanus in his Mirabilia Descripta:

Piper est fructus herbæ quæ est ad modum hederæ quæ ascendit super arbores, et facit semen ad modum lambruscæ, quasi uvam; quod est primò viride; deindè cùm pervenit ad maturitatem, efficitur totum nigrum et rugatum, prout potestis videre. Sic etiam nascitur piper longum; nec credatis quod ignis ubi est piper, vel quod coquatur, sicut aliqui volunt dicere mendosè. (Recueil de voyages, Vol. IV, p. 49)

Pepper is the fruit of a plant something like ivy, which climbs trees, and forms grape-like fruit like that of the wild vine. This fruit is at first green, then when it comes to maturity it becomes all black and corrugated as you see it. 'Tis thus that long pepper is produced, nor are you to believe that fire is placed under the pepper, nor that it is roasted, as some will lyingly maintain. (tr. Yule)

Niccolò Conti's account of Malabar gives a rapid account of all kinds of social and natural facts (including a mention of durian), and now the only fire involved is some ashes:

Linteis vestiuntur et tela serica genu tenus. Uxores plures ducunt, domos depressas habent ad evitandum solis aestum. Idololatrae omnes. Pipere reliquo majore, et item longo pipere, comphora et auro plurimo abundant. Piperis arbor persimilis est ederae, grana ejus viridia ad formam grani juniperi, quae modico cinere aspersa torrentur as solem. Fructum viridem habent nomine durianum, magnitudine cucumeris, in quo sunt quinque veluti malarancia oblonga. varii saporis instar butyri coagulati. (p. 40)

Their garments are made of linen and silk, and hang down to their knees. The men marry as many wives as they please. Their houses are extremely low, in order to protect them against the excessive heat of the sun. They are all idolators. In this island pepper, larger than the ordinary pepper, also long pepper, camphor, and also gold are produced in abundance. The tree which produces the pepper is similar to the ivy, the seeds are green and resemble in form those of the juniper tree: they dry them in the sun, spreading a few ashes over them. In this island there also grows a green fruit, which they call duriano, of the size of a cucumber. When opened five fruits are found within, resembling oblong oranges. The taste varies, like that of cheese. (tr. Jones)

The mix of ancient science and medieval folklore was the basis for the early printed herbals. Among English herbals, the one known as Banckes' Herbal (1525) after the publisher and one claiming to be a translation from Latin of Macer Floridus (1543), but clearly derived from it or a common source:

Piper. This is called Peper. Is is hote and dry in the .iiii. degre. There be .iii. maner of Pepers, blacke, whyte & lõge Peper. Diaſcorides and Conſtantyne ſaye that they be fruytes of trees growynge in Inde. And ſome ſay that Peper is made blacke with brennynge in yͤ fyre/ for whã it is gadered ther be great multytude of ſerpẽtes about it therefore they put it in the fyre to brenne the ſerpẽtes that be aboute it. The Saracyns dry it in an Ouen/ bycauſe it ſhall not encreaſe in another lande. But of all yͤ Pepers the blacke is the beſt & the moſt holſome. (EEBO)Pyper. Piper this is called Peper, it is hote and drye in the fourth degre. There be thre maner of Pepers, blacke, whyte, and longe Peper. Diaſcorides and Conſtantyne ſaye, that they be fruytes of trees growynge in ynde, and ſome ſaye that Peper is made blacke with brennynge in the fyre, for whan it is gathered there be great multytude of ſerpẽtes aboute it, and therfore they put it in the fyre, to brenne the ſerpentes that be aboute it, the Saraſyns dry it in an ouen, bycauſe it ſhall not encreaſe in another lande, but of al yͤ Pepers the blacke is beſt, and the moſte holſome. (EEBO)

And the Grete Herball (1526):

Peper is hote in the begynnynge of the fourthe degre/ & drye in yͤ myddes of the ſame. There is thre ſortes of it for there is longe peper/ yͭ is called macropyper And there is whyte peper yͭ is called malano peper. Some ſay that they be fruyte of dyuers trees. But Conſtantyne and Dyaſcorides ſay that they be all thre of a tre growynge in ynde/ and ſome ſay that peper is made blacke by brennyng. For whan it ſholde be gadred for yͤ grete multytude of ſerpẽtes thereabout/ they ſet fyre about the trees yͭ the vermyn may be brent and go away. But yf that were trewe the trees ſholde be brẽt. And therfore this auctour ſayth yͭ they ben they ben fruytes all of one tree but whan it bereth floures/ thoſe floures gadre on the hepe & ſtretcheth alonge as the floure of haſyll & that is longe peper/ and than it bereth an other maner of lytell fruyte yͭ is called whyte peper & therof haue we none. But in ſtede of it is put catapuce or ſpourge of beyonde the ſee/ whiche is no peper/ for it is bygger and is not ſharpe as peper. And yf it be put in medycyne the ſubſtaũce win muſt be takẽ and not the huſkes Blacke peper is gadred whan it is rype/ and the ſaracyns bake it in an ouen for two cauſes. The fyrſte to kepe it longe/ & the ſeconde that it bere no fruyte nor growe in other coũtrees/ & the blacke peper is of more vertu thã yͤ whyte or longe peper/ (EEBO)

For a more comprehensive list, see The Old English Herbals (Dover reprint). The corresponding French herbals, and in particular those titled Le Grant herbier, of which the Grete Herbal is a translation, do not seem to be scanned yet. There is Giulio Camus' analysis of two manuscripts, one evidently the translation of the other, linking the Salernitan Circa instans with the Grant herbier.

Something of a challenge to the illustrated herbals was that Europeans only knew the dried fruits and that plants, even if they could be had, could not grow in Europe. So, Rembert Dodoens in his 1554 Cruijdt-boeck:


Die oude meeſters ſcrijven dat Peper dryerhande es/ lanck wit ende ſwert/ diemẽ nu ter tijt oock noch in die huyſen van droghiſten ende in die Apoteken te coope vint.


Van fatſoene van den boome daer dat Peper op groeyet/ en kunnen wy anders niet gheſcrijven/ dan dat wy by den ouders oft by den ghenen die in die landen ontrent Indien ende Calekouten verkeert hebben beſcreven vinden/ aengheſien dattet een vremt ſaet es dat ontrent deſe landẽ niet en groeyet. Ende daer om en ſelẽ wy hier af anders niet ſcrijven dã by dẽ ouders/ oft die corts in die landen verkeert hebbẽ gevondẽ wordt/ die nochtãs niet gelijck en ſprekẽ.

(Chap 66; Chap. 60 of the 1557 French translation)

The Kinds

The old masters write that pepper is of three kinds: long, white and black, which one now also finds for sale in the druggists' houses and in the apothecaries.

The Shape

Of the shape of the plant on which pepper grows, we do not know what else to write, other than what we find written by the ancients or by those who have traveled in the lands around India and Calicut, seeing that it is a strange seed that does not grow around these lands. And there about we shall write here anything other than what can be found written by the ancients or those who traveled in the lands, who nevertheless do not speak alike.

Pietro Andrea Mattioli, in his Commentarii on Dioscorides, Chapter CLIII: Piper (1554 edition; 1562 edition, essentially the same), notes that Portuguese and Spanish travelers to India and the Americas, do not always agree with ancient accounts of pepper. After reviewing Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Pliny; and efforts to grow plants that were supposed to be pepper in Italy, he concludes, “Quo sit, mirum non sit, si piperis historia variant auctores” 'So it is, and no wonder, that authors vary on the story of pepper'.

A somewhat authoritative answer came from Garcia de Orta's 1563 Colóquios dos simples e drogas da India. On whether black pepper and long pepper come from the same plant, he writes:

E por aqui vereis como sam defrentes estes tres arvores, scilicet, pimenta longa, e preta, e branca; a qual pimenta longa se chama em Bengala, pimpilim, e o arvore d'ella nam tem mais semelhança com o da preta, do que tem as favas com os ovos: as outras duas arvores da branca e da preta sam muyto semelhantes uma com outra, e nam se conhece, senam da gente da terra, asi como nós nam conhecemos as videiras pretas das brancas, senam quando tem uvas. (here)

And now you will see how the three trees are different, namely, long pepper, and black, and white; which long pepper is called pimpilim in Bengal, and its plant does not have any more resemblance to the black, than do beans to eggs; the other two trees, the white and the black, are very similar to one another, and cannot be distinguished, except by people from the country, just as we cannot distinguish black and white vines, except when they have grapes.

Orta has gone too far: black and white pepper do come from the same plant. He later relates how he had a discussion with a druggist who said that while long pepper was a distinct plant, black and white were not; and the governor who was present related how he had seen a shipment of black pepper in Mozambique which contained some white pepper, presumably because the black part had gotten rubbed off (which is more or less correct, although white pepper is not picked at the same time), which Orta again attempted to refute. The matter was “settled” by writing the King of Cochin, who sent a sack of white pepper and said that they had many white pepper trees there. Orta also rejects pepper being called barcamansi as unlike any such word there, though I am not clear who actually claimed that.

The 1567 edition of Clusius's Aromatum Historiae has a single illustration of peppercorns on a stem (Chap. 22). The 1605 Exoticorum libri decem has a recognition of Garcia de Orta:

Plantam quæ longum Piper profert, ab eâ in qua nigrum naſcitur, longè diſſimilem eſſe ſcribit Garcias ab Orta in ſua Aromatum hiſtoria: ſed (quod eius viri pace dictum volo) plurimum fallitur, meâ quidem ſententiâ. (Chap. 20)

The plant which produces long pepper, is far different from the one on which black [pepper] grows, writes Garcia de Orta in his history of spices: but (which I want said to that man in peace) he is most wrong, in fact, in my opinion.

But it does now have a clear illustration of a long pepper plant, as does the preceding black pepper chapter. The bound-in edition of Aromatum Historiae has those new illustrations for black and long pepper, though the text is not changed, and the old illustration now relabeled as white pepper (Chap. 22).

A similar development can be seen in comparing the editions of John Gerard's Herbal. The 1597 edition says:

The kindes

There be diuers ſorts of Pepper, that is to ſay, white and blacke Pepper, long Pepper, one greater and longer than the other, and alſo a kinde of Ethiopian Pepper.

The deſcription

The plant that beareth Pepper, whether we may call it a tree or an herbie plant, it is diſputable; ſome holding it for a tree, ſome a kinde of Vine, and others for an herbe like vnto the Conuoluuli, or Bindweedes, whereupon we will not diſpute: but yeelding the cenſures of thoſe learned that haue written thereof, leauing the reſt that might be ſaid to a further conſideration.

The plant that beareth the black Pepper as alſo the white, groweth vp like a Vine among buſhes and brambles where it naturally groweth; …

The plant that bringeth white Pepper is not to be diſtinguiſhed from the other plant, but onely by the colour of the fruite, no more than a Vine that beareth blacke Grapes, from that which bringeth white: and of ſome it is thought, that the ſelfe ſame plant doth ſometimes change it ſelfe from blacke to white, as diuers other plants do. …

The tree that beareth long Pepper, hath no ſimilitude at all with the plant that bringeth blacke and white Pepper: ſome haue deemed them to groweth on one tree, which is not conſonant to truth: for they growe in countries far diſtant one from another; and alſo that countrie where there is blacke Pepper, hath not any of the long Pepper: and therefore Galen following Dioſcorides, where togither both ouerſeene in this point. This tree, ſaith Monardes, is not great, yet of a woodie ſubſtance, diſperſing here and there his claſping tendrels, wherewith it taketh holde of other trees, and ſuch other things as do growe neere vnto it. The branches are many and twiggie, whereon doth grow the fruite, conſiſting of many graines growing vpon a ſlender footeſtalke, thruſt or compact cloſe togither; greene at the firſt, and afterwarde blackiſh; in taſte ſharper and hotter than common blacke Pepper, yet ſweeter, and of better taſte. …

Mathioluſ hath ſet foorth a figure of Pepper, condemned of moſt to be faigned; neuertheleſſe it agreeth with the firſt deſcription in diuers points; it differeth from the others in the cloſe and round bunches of fruit. The which figure we haue likewiſe inſerted among the reſt, vntill further certaintie may be knowen hereof. (Chap. 146)

The illustrations are the earlier one of Clusius', the one from Mattioli, and one each for his two kinds of long pepper: piper longum maius and piper longum minus, which resemble one another except in the length of the spike. These have nothing to do with the disctinction between two kinds of Asian long pepper, Indian and Javanese. The key is the mention of Nicolás Monardes, who describes an American long pepper, which he calls pimienta luenga, which is another Piper species, matico; he also illustrates it with a woodcut similar to all of Gerard's (Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales, p. 86).

The 1633 edition of Gerard's Herbal, revised by Johnson, (the one with a Dover reprint; Chap. 152) deletes the first paragraph of the description which hedges bets about whether it is a vine and starts with the statement that it is, adding:

We are beholden to Cluſius for this exact figure and deſcription, which he made by certaine branches which were brought home by the Hollanders from the Eaſt Indies. The curious may ſee more hereof in his Exotickes and notes vpon Garcias.

And, to the comparison with black and white grapes:

Neither Cluſius, nor any other elſe that I haue yet met with, haue deliuered vs any thing of certaine, of the plant whereon white Pepper growes: Cluſius only hath giuen vs the manner how it growes vpon the ſtalkes, as you may ſee it here expreſt.

And, to the long pepper:

For this figure alſo I acknowledge my ſelfe beholden to the learned and diligent Cluſius, who cauſed it to be drawne from a branch of ſome foot in length, that he receiued from Dr. Lambert Hortenſius, who brought it from the Indies. …

And it deletes the paragraph about Mattioli and his illustration. In place of his two different sized long pepper fruits, are Clusius' woodcuts of black, white and long pepper.

So too the 1644 edition of the Cruidt-boeck, still bearing Dodoens' name — he had been dead for half a century, but the brand lived on, has a chapter (31) on various peppers, taking the separate woodcuts from Clusius. Also included in this chapter are other pepper-like plants that Clusius had separately, such as fagara of Avicenna, which is probably Szechuan pepper.

Gaspard Bauhin's Pinax (1623) separates out Piper longum orientale, Piper longum Occidentale dimidii pedis longitudine and Piper longum angustissimum ex Florida. (p. 412, III - V). The last two (which cover some New World peppers, but not chili peppers, Piper indicum, which are elsewhere), each include an entry not previously discussed here. “Piper longum incolis Chiabe dictum Linscot. 4. par. Ind. orient. fig. 20.” refers to Jan Huyghen van Linschoten's narrative in Pars qvarta Indiæ Orientalis, edited by Theodor de Bry. This work itself does not appear to be online, though there are translations of Linschoten in English and French. Still, the reference is to an illustration and there is a dealer catalog selling that print separately: search for item #538 and click View. (The whole book only costs $2K, so I'm afraid there is probably a good profit in cutting one up.) Some hot chili peppers were put into cultivation in Java, and the existing word cabé for Javanese long pepper adopted. (When necessary to distinguish, Javanese long pepper can be cabé jawa, in exactly the same way that other African groundnuts whose name was taken over by peanuts came to be called X-peanut, even by the inhabitants of X.) This crude illustration might be a foreign long hot pepper from America or the native Javanese long pepper. Second, “Piper longum, Felfel, Alpino.” refers to Prospero Alpini's work on Egyptian plants and medicine, published posthumously in two volumes, which are scanned into GDZ, which unfortunately does not support deep linking. Alpini does report a piper longum, saying in the first part, “Habent & plantam quam piper longum appellant, quae piperis acrimoniam majorem in foliis habet, usumque aliquando habet in exigua quantitate piperis loco in ciborum condimentis” 'They also have a plant which they call long pepper, which has much of pepper's pungency in the leaves, and has use sometimes in small quantities in place of pepper as seasoning for food' (page 181:159) and describing it further in the second part, in De Plantis Aegtypi, chapter XXX (page 116 : 46). But the reference picked  up by Bauhin with the native name must be to the note by Johann Vesling, titled “Felfel tavil”, with an illustration on the facing page (page 310 : 190). That is, فلفل طويل fulful tawīl literally 'long pepper'. But this turns out to be an entirely different plant, which Linneaus classified as Euphorbia viminalis and which now seems to be known as Euphorbia tirucalli, the pencil tree, which is a traditional medicine, but not a condiment. In any case, it seems that there was also a native African long pepper. Still, the note also gives a name felfel rumi, that is فلفل رومي 'Roman pepper', which is used for hot chili peppers.

Willem Piso's Mantissa Aromatica, the sixth volume of De Indiae utriusque re naturali et medica libri quatuordecim (1658) is one of the mysteriously unavailable works in Gallica. I hope whatever the issue is gets resolved, or at least does not spread to other works.

A convenient break from the Renaissance herbals can be taken with the work of Leonard Plukenet at the end of 17th century. His Phytographia (1691) illustrates long pepper (Tab. 104, Fig. 4, EEBO) and his Almagestum botanicum (1696) catalogs and sorts names and references (p. 297, EEBO; also in GDZ, select page 301 : 297). He distinguishes several Piper species, mostly separating black and long pepper and other peppers (chili peppers are classed under Solanum mordens, p. 353, EEBO, GDZ 357 : 353).

Volume 7 of Hendrik van Rheede's Hortus Malabaricus on the flora of Kerala, from 1686-1688, (the scanned volumes in SICD are strangely incomplete) describes and illustrates Cattu-Tírpali (p. 27; Tab. 14; note the hand-written Piper longum on the MBG's copy). I am not great at hand-written Malayalam, but I think the legend reads കാട്ടുതിപ്പലി kāṭṭu-thippali, along the lines of Tamil காட்டுத்திப்பலி kāṭṭu-t-tippali 'wild long pepper'.

Rumphius' Herbarium amboinense, published posthumously in 1750, records Piper longum (Book 9, Chap 1, p. 333-334; Tab. 116, Fig. 1) in Indonesia (specifically Amboina), known in Malay as tsjabe (chabai), native to Java and the same as in Bengal.

João de Loureiro's 1790 Flora Cochinchinensis recorded P. longum in Cochinchina (p. 32), giving Vietnamese names cây lốt (that is, the lốt plant or lá lốt 'lolot', now a separate species) and tắt phắt and Chinese pipŏ (that is, 蓽撥).

As for the scientific names for long pepper:

  • In 1753, Linnaeus' Species plantarum listed Piper longum (5).
  • Martin Vahl's 1805 Enumeratio plantarum proposed Piper retrofractum (9) for a long pepper native to the East Indies.
  • Cataloging pepper species found on Penang Island in 1809, William Hunter proposed a new species, Piper chaba (4, but labeled 3) for what he names in Malay as chábatádi, based on a clear distinction between the figures of Rumphius' Piper Longum Tsjabe and Rheede's Cattu-tirpali. He notes that Piper longum is Sanskrit पिप्पली pippalī / Hindi पीपल pīpal and the plant under consideration चविका cavikā / चाब cāb, whose produce is supposedly called गजपिप्पली gaja-pippalī  / गजपीपल gaj-pīpal (which is generally considered the same as गजकृष्णा gaja-kṛṣṇā 'Scindapus officinalis'), with the drug actually sold under that name coming from some other plant altogether.
  • Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel's 1843 Systema Piperacearum proposed Chavica roxburghii (8) for long pepper and Chavica officinarum (20) for Javanese long pepper.
  • Casimir de Candolle's survey of Piperaceae in Prodromus Systematis Naturalis (1869) recognized Piper officinarum (478) for Javanese long pepper (among over 600 Piper species).
  • The current consensus is that there are two species of long pepper, basically the Indian and Indonesian kinds. Piper longum Linn. is the accepted name for the former. And for the latter, the subject of this post, Piper retrofractum Vahl, subsuming synonyms Chavica officinarum Miq., Piper officinarum C. DC., and Piper chaba Hunter.

In commerce, there was no concerted attempt to distinguish the two species, and in fact most of the long pepper that was sold to Europe as a spice up until the end of the 19th century, and maybe into the 20th, was probably Javanese long pepper. Javanese long pepper is even imported into India. So too in traditional medicine. Here is a paper that outlines how to tell the two apart using chromography: the authors tested batches of Chinese bibo (荜拨), which should have been P. longum and found most to be P. retrofractum.

The essay “Long Pepper: A Short History” from Petits Propos Culinaires and reprinted in the collection The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy, suggests that the loss of popularity of the long pepper as a seasoning, even at the same time that a higher quality version was found in Java, was due to the introduction of chili peppers. Black pepper was adequate for a slightly pungent taste, and anything stronger was more easily achieved with them.


Dimitri said...

Колосковый перец is literally translated from Russian as "spike (or spica) pepper". But piper longum has better known in Russian under the name of длинный перец (simply 'long pepper'). There are other names: долгий перец (long pepper), яванский перец (Javanese pepper), пипул, кавика.

Thank you very much for this blog. I enjoy reading your articles :)

MMcM said...

Ah, thank you. I've cleaned it up a bit. Do you agree with Gernot Katzer that колосковый перец is Javanese long pepper (P. officinarum, that is, P. retrofractum) or is the distinction something else, as it is in some other languages, such as whether it's a spice or materia medica, or a dialect difference?