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Peppercorn (Piper Nigrum) Variety or Subsitute that Grows in Zone 7b?

 
master steward
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I would love to grow more of my favorite seasonings and flavors, both to be more local as well as to be prepared for disaster (hey, who knows, the end of the world as we know it might happen!). Most of my favorite seasonings and herbs can grow here, or I can do without them. BUUUUUT, what about black pepper?! It is the most wondrous seasoning, making everything yummy. We use it on most everything and it's just as much as staple in our diet as salt is. As far as I can tell, though, it does not grow here, needing zone 11 or 12 weather. Goodness, it doesn't seem to grow naturally outdoors pretty much anywhere in the US (http://www.offthegridnews.com/survival-gardening-2/the-ultimate-guide-to-growing-black-pepper/).

Are there other plants that have the same or similar flavor profile as black pepper? Anything easy to grow or that is a perennial? Reading through an old medieval cookbook, I see fennel/anise used almost as much as we use pepper. But, as much as I like fennel, it isn't pepper!

Any ideas?

Thanks!
 
Nicole Alderman
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I've been searching the web, and so far I've found people substituting these in place of peppercorn:

Juniper Berries: (Hardy to zone 1!) Supposedly tastes piney and citrusy and is traditionally used in Scandinavian cuisine for seasoning meat dishes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juniper_berry
). So far, this seems the easiest option, as juniper likes to take over here, though it doesn't sound too peppery to me, though I guess traders used to used to mix it in with their pepper to trick buyers...

Sumac Berries: (Most varieties hardy to zone 3, Staghorn sumac supposedly having the best flavor) Lemony flavored. Doesn't sound peppery at all, but does grow easily and is native here. (http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/09/foraged-flavor-all-about-sumac.html).

Pink Peppercorn/Schinus molle: (Hardy to zone 8 or 9) Tastes like pepper, but is slightly toxic according to some sources. Considering the amount of pepper I use, I don't think this is a viable option! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schinus_molle
)

Papaya Seeds: (Hardy to zone 9) Supposedly tastes just like pepper...but it doesn't grow here. Plus, I can't imagine getting that much "pepper" from one papaya tree... (This person did manage to grow some in zone 5-6, though! http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/2187401/fruiting-papaya-in-zone-5-6)

Coriander: (self-seeds in many areas). Citrusy and earthy, not much like pepper...

Szechuan Pepper: (hardy to zone 6). Once again, supposedly tastes lemony and it makes your mouth numb (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper).

Mountain Pepper or Tasmanian Pepper (Hardy to zone 7): Supposedly tastes like pepper! One problem is, many varieties have sasfrol, which is considered carcinogenic (same compound that's in sassafras). http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/2867/mountain-pepper/



I'm kind of wondering why almost all the plants that "taste like pepper" supposedly taste lemony/citrusy...

Anyone have any other ideas for peppercorn-flavored plants, or notes on how these other plants actually taste?

Thanks!
 
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On the topic of carcinogenic properties of sasfrol.
The studies Ive seen accomplish this by giving lab animals 1000's of times the amounts anyone would naturally consume.
Basically forcing the animals to live solely off of sassafras or giving them pure sasfrol in large doses over a long period of time.


I mean the WHO just labeled red meat in the same carcinogenic class as cigarettes.


I think moderation is key in just about everything when it comes down to it.




 
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I've heard of a mushroom that's supposed to taste very peppery and has been used for a substitute. I'll try to look up the name this evening.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Hi! We love black pepper.  But we can't grow it in Zone 7b because it gets too cold.

I'd like to know of a substitute for it that will grow here.  We already grow every hot chili-pepper there is, like jalapeno, cayenne, tabasco, as well as the bell peppers and pepperoncini.

I'd like to grow something I can dry and grind up that tastes close to black pepper.  No growing in pots, these will be dedicated beds outside.

Thanks so much!
-John
 
John Todd
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Woah! Slow down ... don't everybody talk at once.  

Seriously, throw me some ideas.  THe Good, The Bad, but keep The Ugly.

Thanks!
-John
 
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I know the seeds of papaya are traditionally substituted for peppercorns. I don't know how closely the flavor matches, though. The seeds themselves look like peppercorns, so there's a high power of suggestion there.

There might be a possibility of growing them as an annual crop as they can apparently produce fruit as young as 9 months. Growing them in a pot is a possible solution, but I find it a lot more exciting when I can grow things in the ground.

Unfortunately, when I think of the flavor of black pepper the only describable part of it is the burn. The rest of the flavors are very subtle to me. Can you identify aspects of the flavor that stand out to you?
 
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Have you tried Grains of Paradise AKA alligator peppers?  They can grow in zones 9-11, and they used to be used as a black pepper substitute WAY back in the day.
 
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I've been looking for black pepper replacement too.  Alligator pepper is a perenial in frost free areas. My question is, can this plant be grown as an annual in zone 7?
Here is a good article on alligator pepper. Not enough info on cultivating it though.
http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_grains_paradise.htm

Growing recommendations. It is a perenial in frost free areas.
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/propagation-alligator-peppers-77095.html

Still no info on whether it can be grown as an annual in zone 7 (as tomatoes are). I didn't find out how long it takes from sprouting to bloom, but this book states that from bloom to seeds it takes 2 to 3 months.
https://books.google.com/books?id=DDQq9vSLK_QC&pg=PA326&lpg=PA326&dq=how+long+for+alligator+pepper+to+mature&source=bl&ots=ZWlZft_gTj&sig=rxgbptlQ9ogAAQPwWKJ7X3BajhM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFtMjq35DUAhWKKMAKHRM0A0A4FBDoAQghMAA#v=onepage&q=how%20long%20for%20alligator%20pepper%20to%20mature&f=false

And my available time for this search has been expended.
Again, the question: Can this plant be grown as an annual in zone 7? We are left with the usual permie answer of.... DRUMROLL! Try it and see!

Arrrgh!
 
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One of the common names of vitex is 'Monk's Pepper", maybe that will help.
Because of the common names (Chaste Tree and Monk's Pepper), you may not want to try it.
 
John Todd
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Thanks guys!  I'm going to look into the alligator peppers.
 
John Todd
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Casie Becker wrote:Can you identify aspects of the flavor that stand out to you?



Yes.  First off is the taste bud stimulation that makes all other flavors "pop".  Second is the fruitiness of fresh ground pepper from peppercorns.
 
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I let the wild herb poor man's pepper grow in my garden, grab the little seed heads and use them. It is like a blend of wasabi and black pepper...delish!
 
John Todd
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Sichuan (szechuan) pepper is a good substitute. It grows as a tree in zones 6 to 9. Both seeds and leaves are used.
 
John Todd
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Now that looks like a good option.  I have room for trees in the orchard!
 
pollinator
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I am thinking about starting Zanthoxylum Simulans from seed since I have found no source online. They are dioecious so likely you need to plant at least 4 to have a good shot at a crop from seedlings.

Looks like seeds online are quite cheap.
 
Jd Gonzalez
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Try to source a local producer for the seeds. All imported sichuan peppercorns are heat treated before shipping to kill potential fungi that threaten citrus trees in the US.
I found this place in Oregon. However, they're out of stock.

https://onegreenworld.com/product/sechuan-pepper-2/

They do have the Japanese pepper (Sansho)

https://onegreenworld.com/product/sansho-seedling-2/

I think both will be on my property soon.
 
pollinator
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apparewntly alexanders seeds, I grow the plant but haven't used it as pepper so far. Take care and read up the medical properties before you substitue.
 
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Several plants in the United States are used also as pepper substitutes, such as Lepidium campestre, Lepidium virginicum, shepherd's purse, horseradish, and field pennycress.




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_campestre

Lepidium campestre, the field pepperwort[1] or field pepperweed, is usually a biennial with some form of annual plant in the Brassicaceae or mustard family,  The young fruits and seeds can be used as a spice, with a taste between black pepper and mustard.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_virginicum

Lepidium virginicum, also known as least pepperwort[1] or Virginia pepperweed,[2] is an herbaceous plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is native to much of North America, including most of the United States and Mexico and southern regions of Canada, as well as most of Central America.   The young seedpods can be used as a substitute for black pepper.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsella_bursa-pastoris

Capsella bursa-pastoris, known by its common name shepherd's purse because of its triangular flat fruits, which are purse-like, is a small (up to 0.5 m) annual and ruderal flowering plant in the mustard family Brassicaceae. It is native to eastern Europe and Asia minor,[4] but is naturalized and considered a common weed in many parts of the world, especially in colder climates,  


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseradish

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage). It is a root vegetable used as a spice.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thlaspi_arvense (Fieeld Pennycress)
 
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Some years ago my father told me about this guy on tv that used alder flowers as a substitute for pepper.

I found this: https://spicetrekkers.com/products/spices/green-alder-pepper
They also have a section on northern spices, I had no idea and have to try
https://spicetrekkers.com/boutique/epices?categorie=nordic-spices&sort=abc
 
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I'm planning to try black cumin, Nigella sativa, though its an annual...

https://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?searchterm=black+cumin&search_catalogue_button=Go

(Fennel flower; Russian caraway; Black caraway) Commonly featured in Indian dhals and equally at home in Russian rye bread! Aromatic black seeds resemble fennel in aroma and taste something like peppery nutmeg. Seeds can be ground and used with near abandon like black pepper. Its legendary healing powers are summed up in the Arab proverb, “In the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.”
 
Kirk Schonfeldt
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I love the unique peppery-ness of Nasturtium leaves. I wonder if they could be dried/powdered and sprinkled on foods. That would be...interesting.
 
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Lunaria annua (honesty plant) seeds, hardy to zone 4, self seeds like crazy.
 
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Liz Hoxie wrote:One of the common names of vitex is 'Monk's Pepper", maybe that will help.
Because of the common names (Chaste Tree and Monk's Pepper), you may not want to try it.



My memory is telling me, Chaste Tree was used by monks in an attempt to suppress libido (sex drive). They used it liberally which is why it developed the name "Monk's Pepper".

Chaste tree definitely has an effect on the sex hormones in both men and women, so please do research this before using it as a substitute.
 
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Satureja hortensis/montana. Summer/winter Savoury. Here in Italy it's called Erba Pepe....guess ...
Used lots with legumes (aids digestion) and is great for calming the itch of mosquito bites. A friend cooks her cabbage with guarana powder - I still haven't tried it out.
 
Jackie Frobese
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geraint britton wrote:Satureja hortensis/montana. Summer/winter Savoury. Here in Italy it's called Erba Pepe....guess ...
Used lots with legumes (aids digestion) and is great for calming the itch of mosquito bites. A friend cooks her cabbage with guarana powder - I still haven't tried it out.



I’ll start with a disclaimer here: I do not have a very refined pallet. To me chives, leeks and green onion all taste the same. So take this with a grain of salt.

I just opened and smelled my summer savory next to my pepper grinder. They are surprisingly similar. Except savory does not have the kick that black pepper has. So maybe if you mixed it with just a touch of horseradish or the like it would get there?

Summer savory definitely has a more broad growing range. I grow it successfully in New Hampshire, USA in zone 5. I tried starting winter savory last year but it didn’t survive the winter. That could be for a lot of reasons so I’m trying again this year.
 
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I just read:
Early travelers and pioneers of the American West once referred clematis as "pepper vines" as they used to use clematis to substitute for pepper to spice up their food.

At http://mason.gmu.edu/~qchu1/projects/plant.htm

The source says Clematis ligusticifolia seeds but also talks of toxins. Any one any experience on eating clematis seeds?
 
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I grow the common blue Nigella sativa known here as Love-in-a-Mist. It produces an abundance of seed which I use as ground black pepper. The flavour is of black pepper with a touch of wild oregano. I believe it's also called Black Caraway or Black Cumin in some areas.
 
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I spotted Sichuan peppers in gallon pots available for mail order at Raintree Nursery (located in WA), that is hardy in zones 6-9. For true piperaceae, I'll have to wait until I can afford the big tropical greenhouse of my dreams... https://raintreenursery.com/sale/sichuan-pepper-gal-pot-l565

I'm planning on buying at least a couple plants when budget allows, because after watching youtube videos of a girl from Sichuan cooking with them, she goes through copious amounts of pepper fresh off the tree. I may not like spicy food quite as much, but I prefer Sichuan pepper over hot chilies.

As far as the pepper substitutes often being described as having a "citrusy" flavor, I've been told I have a pretty good palate for a home cook (I'm skeptical), and when I taste freshly ground black pepper, it has a punchy quality to it, but also a hint of citrus, and sometimes does resemble the resinous flavor of pine. It's really hard to replace, while ground pepper that's been living at the back of my cupboard really doesn't taste of much at all.

Juniper berries don't taste like "pepper" to me. I grew up eating lots of foods with Juniper berries in the recipes, and its use could be described more as that of star anise in Asian cooking, with a bit less of a "licorice" flavor, and a bit more "pine". Very astringent if you just bite into a fresh berry, but mellows out with cooking and helps bring some brightness to heartier dishes. With rich, gamey meats, it comes into its own. Looking at some recipes from back home, it's mostly paired with reindeer, moose, and rabbit. It's also not uncommon to infuse vodka with juniper berries for snaps (is the English spelling "shnapps"?), and it's used in folk medicine to make cough syrup. Juniper has its place in my spice cupboard, because it's very good in its own right.
 
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Penny English spelling is Snaps, I think the h might be german? I agree Juniper is not much like pepper at all (and should not be eaten when pregnant) a long way up the thread someone mentioned a mushroom, I believe he means Chalciporus piperatus (Pepper Bolete) it really does taste of pepper but probably isn't easy to cultivate.
 
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Has anyone grown piper longum?
 
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Have you tried Nastutium seeds? They were used in most of Europe as a pepper substitute. There are several dozen annual varieties. The whole plant is edible with peppery notes. Leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, roots. I think it would be hard to run out of uses.
 
Penny Oakenleaf
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Deborah Farrington wrote:Have you tried Nastutium seeds? They were used in most of Europe as a pepper substitute. There are several dozen annual varieties. The whole plant is edible with peppery notes. Leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, roots. I think it would be hard to run out of uses.



I keep thinking I remember nasturtium seed pods can be pickled for "capers", too! Here's one recipe I found. https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/nasturtium-capers
 
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