Spice of the Week – Cubeb

March 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Posted in diabetes, Food, spices and herbs | 2 Comments

Cubeb (Piper cubeba), or tailed pepper, is a plant in genus Piper, cultivated for its fruit and essential oil. It is mostly grown in Java and Sumatra, hence sometimes called Java pepper. The fruits are gathered before they are ripe, and carefully dried. Commercial cubebs consist of the dried berries, similar in appearance to black pepper, but with stalks attached — the “tails” in “tailed pepper”. The dried pericarp is wrinkled, its color ranges from grayish-brown to black. The seed is hard, white and oily. The odor of cubeb is described as agreeable and aromatic. The taste, pungent, acrid, slightly bitter and persistent. It has been described as tasting like allspice, or like a cross between allspice and black pepper.

Spice Description:
This is the small, red-brown irregular seeds of a cardamom-like plant. The seeds are 3-4 mm (1/8”) in diameter and are numerously contained in a brown wrinkled, fig-shaped dried capsule about 30mm (1-1/4”) in length; they have a white kernel. They are rarely found in the West.
Plant Description
A tropical, climbing perennial vine with a round grey stem. The leaves are smooth and ovate with a pointed tip. The small white flowers are arranged in spikes that later develop into an aggregate of berries along the central axis. The fruits are brown.

 

 

Preparation and Storage:
As with other pepper, grind as necessary; ground pepper rapidly loses its aroma.

Culinary Uses:
Cubeb is used in local Indonesian cookery, especially in Indonesian gulés (curries). It was once popular in Arab cooking. Although there are no specific uses for cubeb in modern Western cookery, it was popular in the Middle Ages and in moderation may still be used to effect both as a spice and a pepper substitute. Because of its aromatic qualities, cubeb would go well with meat, cheese and vegetable dishes. It may be substituted for pepper in spice mixtures such as quatre-épices for flavoring patés, sausages, gingerbreads and spiced biscuits. Another use for cubeb is in place of allspice, where it will give a more peppery flavor.

Attributed Medicinal Properties:
Cubeb berry is considered a carminative, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, and antiseptic. It has often been used in the treatment of gonorrhea. Cubeb Berry has been shown to be effective in easing the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. It is also used for digestive ailments and is effective in treating dysentery. Cubeb also has a local stimulating effect on the mucous membranes of the urinary and respiratory tracts. The herb has often been associated with the reproductive system and has been used to treat cystitis, leucorrhea, urethritis, and prostate infections. Its action in regards to genital problems have led many to believe that cubeb has aphrodisiacal properties and is often used in traditional love spells.

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