Medieval culinary glossary: grains of paradise

Image by Inna Moody: Grains of paradise pods São Tomé Island, Africa. License. The pods contain the seeds which are ground to make the spice; see image below.

Here’s another entry from my forthcoming, encylopaedic glossary of ingredients, equipment and culinary terms that are all found in Richard II’s cookery treatise Fourme of Cury (c.1390). And we’ve arrived at the letter g, so here’s my excerpt for grains of paradise:

‘grayne de paryse’; Fourme of Cury, Manchester, John Rylands Library, MS English 7, folio 66v. Click here for source.

grains of paradise grayne de paryse and Anglo-Norman grayne de paradys. Also known today as melegueta pepper, this spice is the seed of Aframomum melegueta, a species of plant in the ginger family, and native to coastal regions of West Africa. It has an essential pepperiness, though not as hot as black pepper, with woody and citrus notes. It appears as an ingredient in just two recipes of Fourme of Cury. The first of these is for ‘Sauce noyre’ (‘black sauce’) served with roasted capon (recipe 135, chapter 5), where it is combined with three other spices: anise, ginger and cinnamon. There, paryse, a variant of Old French parais ‘paradise’, is used in the name of the spice. The second recipe, the only one to be written in Anglo-Norman rather than Middle English, is more list than actual recipe. It itemises eleven spices and herbs, including grains of paradise, that go into making the powder for hippocras, a spiced wine (recipe 189, chapter 5). Often, the abbreviated name greynes ‘grains’ is found across Middle English texts (see MED, grain, 5). Also, the Latin form granum paradisi ‘grain of paradise’ appears in a few texts, including the Middle English version of the great works on medicine by Guido Lanfranchi (1250-1306), where it is used in a syrup to comfort the stomach (see Lanfrank, p. 183).

‘grayne & de paradys’ (the scribe adds ‘&’ by mistake); Fourme of Cury, Manchester, John Rylands Library, MS English 7, folio 87r. Click here for source.
Grains of paradise, the seeds of the pods of Aframomum melegueta, by Lemmikkipuu. Licence.

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Published by Christopher Monk

Dr Christopher Monk is creating Modern Medieval Cuisine

9 thoughts on “Medieval culinary glossary: grains of paradise

  1. if you’re at Pennsic; you might want to stop by Auntie Arwen’s Spices. I’m sure you have info that would be greatly appreciated by Coll & Lyd, who are running the store. Very interesting posts you have!

    Liked by 1 person

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