compound leaves constitute a nice silhouette. They are prickly when young
and if crushed they provide a nice fragrance too. I have not use them for
food, but go on experimenting! This deciduous plant is slow-growing but
produces a wealth of spice when still young. It should be grown in full sun.
English vernacular name ‘pepper’ can be
confusing. Originally the Sanskrit name ‘pipala’ only referred to a spice
the Romans called ‘Piper longum‘. Today, ‘pepper’ may indeed refer to true
peppers of the pepper family (Piperaceae), to South American chili or chilli
of the potato family (Capsicum, Solanaceae), to South American pink pepper
of the mango family (Schinus molle, Anacardiaceae) and to Sichuan peppers of
the orange family (Zanthoxylum, Rutaceae). They all provide ‘heat’ to your
food, but their flavours are different.
At the Dokmai Garden parking we grow a Sichuan pepper tentatively called
Zanthoxylum rhetsa (syn. Z. limonella), but the genus is unresolved and
under revision. Many of the more than 200 species in the genus produce a
hotness like other peppers, but also an ice-cold tingling sensation. Our
species is like a very hot mint, and a long aftertaste and funny feeling of
the tongue like when you try if a battery is still active but without the
We suggest you wait until these closed mini oranges open and expose their
shiny black seeds (lower right). Remove these seeds, because they will
tickle your teeth like sandy strawberries if you crush and eat them. What
you have left are the empty and dry pericarps (husks). These are the source
of the spice which you can buy at many Thai food markets. Thai names can be
‘phrik hom’ or here in the north ‘ma khwaen’. Some species of Zanthoxylum
are native to the local forests.
How do you prepare and eat them? Simply dry the husks and pound them with a
mortar and a pestle or use a pepper grinder. Try the powder on pure rice
first just to investigate its peculiar impact on your senses, then
experiment as much as you wish!
This spice is not part of Esan cuisine, but I like this spice very much. I
simply collect the husks straight from the leggy sapling using a pole
clipper, crush them with my fingers and sprinkle over a hot red Thai curry
(chili hot) with dried leaves of makrut lime (Citrus hystrix). That creates
a complex orchestra (many instruments of hotness) of hot and cool feelings
with a long-lasting aftertaste. www.dokmaigarden.co.th.