African Negro pepper are known as Grains of Selim. I used to see this quite often in the market, but never really knew what it was used for. So I did a bit of digging. African Negro Pepper is actually the seeds of a shrubby tree known biologically as Xylopia aethiopica and can be found and is used in many parts of Africa. It is known by many names depending on where you are and is called anything from kimba pepper (Hausa), uda (Ibo), Eeru (Youruba) in Nigeria, a well as Moor pepper, Negro pepper, Kani pepper, Kili pepper, Sénégal pepper, Ethiopian pepper, Hwentia and Guinea pepper in other parts of the continent.
The seeds tend to have have a musky flavor and are used as a pepper substitute. The pods are crushed and added whole to soups or stews, then removed before serving the food. They are also often smoked and ground and used to season fish and are a key ingredient in Nigerian suya spice. Apparently, in northern Cameroon it is one of three spices added to tea, along with dried ginger and cloves and is a key ingredient in Touba Coffee popularly consumed in the area.
In Nigeria African Negro pepper is a very popular and key ingredient for pepper soup. I plan to find some new uses for this spice now that I’ve spent a bit more time learning about it. It’s amazing how many unique ingredients we have in Nigeria that are found in other parts of the world (hence not so unique). We really need to do more to diversify use and promote them. Don’t you agree?