Long pepper (Indian)
(Piper longum and P. retrofractum – Family Piperaceae)
It comes from two species of plants related to the peppercorn. One grows wild in the foothills of the Himalayas and in southern India, while the other is the Javanese long pepper found throughout Malaysia. The latter is now considered to be more pungent and the better of the two. In ancient times, it was preferred to pepper because of its milder taste, but has been commercially supplanted by the pepper all over the world. In Thailand, the long pepper is called “Cha-plu”; and the hot, spicy leaves are used in soups and stir-fries, or as wrappers for other foods. In India and Sri Lanka, the long pepper is substantially milder than the black pepper and cultivated mainly as an herb and medicinal plant. When Theophrastus wrote about the pepper in the 3rd century BCE, he listed only two kinds, the black pepper and the long pepper. Nearly 400 years later, Pliny identified three kinds in use: black, white, and the long. The last cost twice as much as the white, which in turn, cost more than the black. By 1607, the long pepper began to disappear from the marketplace, even though black pepper was twelve times the cost of the long pepper. By 1702, a French writer stated that he had nothing to say about the long pepper as it was no longer being used as food. This is explained. Because of the moister quality of the long pepper, it did not have the keeping properties found in black pepper or the newcomer, ‘chili pepper’.