Ex-Classics Home Page

Gerard's Herbal - Part 2

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 71. Of Guinea or Indian Pepper.

CHAP. 71. Of Guinea or Indian Pepper.

Fig. 568. Kinds of Guinea Pepper (1-3)


The Description.

            1. The first of these plants hath square stalks a foot high or somewhat more, set with many thick and fat leaves, not unlike to those of Garden Nightshade, but narrower and sharper pointed, of a dark green colour. The flowers grow alongst the stalks, out of the wings of the leaves, of a white colour, having for the most part five small leaves blazing out like a star, with a green button in the middle. After them grow the cods, green at the first, and when they be ripe of a brave colour glittering like red coral; in which is contained little flat seeds, of a light yellow colour, of a hot biting taste like common pepper, as is also the cod itself: which is long, and as big as a finger, and sharp pointed.

            2. The difference that is between this and the last described is small, for it consists in nothing but that the cods are pretty large and round, after the fashion of cherries, and not so long as those of the former.

            3. The third kind of Guinea Pepper is like unto the precedent in leaves, flowers, and stalks. The cods hereof are small, round, and red, very like to the berries of Dulcamara or Woody Nightshade, both in bigness, colour, and substance, wherein consisteth the difference: notwithstanding the seed and cods are very sharp and biting, as those of the first kind.

Fig. 569. Varieties of the Cods of Guinea Pepper

            There are many other varieties of Guinea Pepper, which chiefly consist in the shape and colour of the cods: wherefore I thought good (and that chiefly because it is a plant that will hardly brook our climate) only to present you with the figures of their several shapes, whereof the cods of some stand or grow upright, and other some hang down: such as desire further information of this plant, may be abundantly satisfied in Clusius his Curęposter. from pag. 95 to pag. 108, where they shall find these treated of large in a treatise written in Italian by Gregory de Regio, a Capuchin friar, and sent to Clusius, who translating it into Latin, left it to be set forth with other his observations, which was performed 2 years after his death, to wit Anno Domini 1611. The figures we here give are the same which are in that tractate.


The Names.

            These plants are brought from foreign countries, as Guinea, India, and those parts, into Spain and Italy: from whence we have received seed for our English gardens, where they come to fruit-bearing: but the cod doth not come to that bright red colour which naturally it is possessed with, which hath happened by reason of these unkindly years that are past: but we expect better, when God shall send us a hot and temperate year.


The Time.

            The seeds hereof must be sown in a bed of hot horse-dung, as Musk Melons are, and removed into a pot when they have gotten three or four leaves, that it may the more conveniently be carried from place to place to receive the heat of the sun: and are toward autumn to be carried into some house, to avoid the injury of the cold nights of that time of the year, when it is to bear his fruit.


The Names.

            Actuarius calleth it in Latin, Capsicum: and it is thought to be that which Avicenna nameth Zinziber caninum, or Dog's Ginger: and Pliny, Siliquastrum, which is more like in taste to pepper than is Panax, and it is therefore called Piperitis, as he hath written in his 19th book, 12th chap. Panax (saith he) hath the taste of pepper and Siliquastrum for which cause it is called Piperitis. The later herbarists do oftentimes call it Piper indianum, or Indicum, sometimes Piper Calicuthium, or Piper hispanicum: in English it is called Guinea Pepper, and Indian Pepper: in the German tongue, Indianischer Pfeffer: in Low Dutch, Bresilie Peper: in French, Poivre d'Inde, very well known in the shops at Billingsgate by the name of Guinea Pepper, where it is usually to be bought.


The Temperature.

            Guinea Pepper is extreme hot and dry even in the fourth degree: that is to say, far hotter and drier then Avicenna showeth Dog's Ginger to be.


The Virtues.

            A. Guinea Pepper hath the taste of pepper, but not the power or virtue, notwithstanding in Spain and sundry parts of the Indies they do use to dress their meat therewith, as we do with Calicut pepper: but (saith my author) it hath in it a malicious quality, whereby it is an enemy to the liver and other of the entrails. Avicenna writeth that it killeth dogs.

            B. It is said to dye or colour like Saffron; and being received in such sort as Saffron is usually taken, it warmeth the stomach, and helpeth greatly the digestion of meats.

            C. It dissolveth the swellings about the throat called the King's evil, as kernels and cold swellings; and taketh away spots and lentils from the face, being applied thereto with honey.


Prev Next

Back to Introduction