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Wageningen University

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Negro pepper (Xylopia aethiopica)

Plant family

Annonaceae (custard apple family)

Botanical synonyms



Tropical Africa (Ethiopia to Ghana)

Used plant part

Fruits; they look rather like small, twisted bean-pods. They are dark brown, cylindrical, 2.5 to 5 cm long and 4 to 6 mm thick; the contours of the seeds are visible from outside. Each pod contains 5 to 8 kidney-shaped seeds of approximately 5 mm length. The hull is aromatic, but not the seed itself.

Sensoric quality

Aromatic, quite pungent and slightly bitter

Main constituents

In negro pepper fruits, the essential oil (2 to 4.5%) has been found to consist of -pinene, 1,8-cineol, a-terpineol, terpinene-4-ol, paradol, bisabolene and other terpenes. In other work, linalool (E)--ocimene, a-farnesene, -pinene, a-pinene, myrtenol and -phellandrene were found, furthermore traces of vanillin and 3-ethylphenol (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 47, 3285, 1999)

Dried negro pepper fruits


Negro pepper has been used as a pepper substitute in Europe, but with regular imports of black pepper from India starting in the 16th century, it mostly disappeared. In later times, negro pepper was only traded as a pepper substitute (or surrogate) in times of war and short supply; the last time, it was seen in Europe from after World War II till the 60s of the previous century. It is hardly available outside of the production countries nowadays.

Source :

European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands