Grains of Selim
The term Grains of Selim refers to the seeds of a shrubby tree, Xylopia aethiopica, found in Africa. It is also known as Guinea pepper, kimba pepper, African pepper, Moor pepper, Negro pepper, Kani pepper, Kili pepper, Sénégal pepper and Ethiopian pepper. The seeds have a musky flavor and are used as a pepper substitute. It is sometimes confused with grains of paradise.
As a spice the whole fruit (seed pod) is used as the hull of the fruit lends an aromatic note (with the taste being described as an admixture of cubep pepper and nutmeg with overtones of resin) whilst the seeds lend pungency (they are also quite bitter). Typically the dried fruit would be lightly crushed before being tied in a bouquet garni before being added to West African soups (stews). In Sénégal the spice is often sold smoked in markets as Poivre de Sénégal (the whole green fruit is smoked giving the spice a sticky consisitency) and when pounded in a pestle and mortar this makes an excellent fish rub. These, however, tend to be the larger pods of the related species Xylopia striata.
In West African cookbooks, especially those from Cameroon, the spice is referred to as kieng, but the language that name is derived from is unknown.
Use in cuisine
The pods are crushed and added whole to soups or stews, then removed before serving the food. Smoked pods can be ground before being used as a spice rub for fish.
- The Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0
- Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages  (accessed October 26 2005)
- Celtnet Spice Guide  (accessed July 19 2007)