Common Pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum) Now here’s a very special ingredient that truly speaks of the Eastern North American climate. It is in the citrus family and within that family it’s in the genus Zanthoxylum which makes it a close relative of the Asian natives Szechuan pepper and Sansho berry.
The common pricklyash has evolved in the climate of Eastern North America and developed its own mechanisms of survival. Although the plant has been here for far longer than the modern colonization, it is one of the things that has since been almost completely ignored. For no good reason.
If we consider the flavor of common pricklyash, it is a wonder that it has fallen out of use. It has a taste which is very similar to lime, particularly when it is used in a dressing. Used raw or dried to simply garnish foods, the tongue-stimulating effects prevail. It has an ability to tingle the tongue as it reacts with the nerve endings which heightens our ability to perceive certain flavors.
If we’re celebrating regional cuisine, why should we season it with anything other than regional spices?