The travels of the taste buds Ep. 5: Penja Pepper, superstar of the African valleys

I viaggi delle papille Ep.5: Penja Pepper, superstar delle valli africane

From the direction they inform us that it is the most sought-after spice by starred chefs from all over the world. And for nothing else, it has become the first African product to receive the IGP certification.

A mystery with multiple personalities

There are many stories about the discovery of Pepe Penja: some claim it was a farmer who accidentally discovered the spice, tripping over it while walking through the woods. Others believe it was a French colonialist who first planted it on his banana plantation.

To date, we only know that it originates from the volcanic valley of the same name in central Africa, precisely in the state of Cameroon. And its fame is due to the French entrepreneur Erwan de Kerros, who, in 1992, finding himself on a Cameroonian farm, tasted Penja and was inebriated by its flavor so different but so defined at the same time.


Creativity and colors in the kitchen

Penja is harvested at different times, and for this reason the palette of smells and flavors that characterize it is very variable. Green Penja, harvested before actual ripening, releases a fresh flavor with hints of lemon. The black one, harvested before ripening and subsequently dried naturally, has a more full-bodied flavor. And then there is the Bianco, harvested at optimal maturity, and subsequently washed and freed from its pulp. It reveals all its smells, from bright to musky, up to that hint of African heat that leaves you in the back palate. The latter is the most prized variant of pepper, which often accompanies first courses, such as tagliatelle with truffles.


Keepers of tradition

The peculiarity of this spice is that its collection and processing takes place exclusively by hand, in all phases: collection, washing, drying and removal of the pulp.

Women in these stages are crucial, as they are holders of the tradition and culinary knowledge of the Penja valley.