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.
It's a shrub or small tree that resides within the forest, in little clearings, pathways, and at the woodland's edge.
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.
The flowers form just before the leaves
Fruits developing in late spring
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 flavors.
If we’re celebrating regional cuisine, why should we season it with anything other than regional spices?
Mature leaves at the perfect time for harvesting
Ripe fruits at the perfect time to harvest
The dried leaves are exceptional. They have an aroma like lime kaffir leaves and they tolerate only light cooking. Add crumbled or ground leaves to rice pudding or porridge when it has almost finished cooking.
Dried fruit husks
Try this simple recipe for a dipping sauce:
Pricklyash peppers Salt Tahini Oil Vinegar
Grind two good pinches of pricklyash peppers in a pestle and mortar with an equal amount of salt. Next add a tablespoon of tahini, a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of vinegar. Grind together until you have a smooth paste. Insanely good.