Latin name: Zanthoxylum armatum
Other names: Winged Prickly Ash, Nepali pepper
Uses: spice, oil extract, medicinal
A relative of Sichuan pepper, winged prickly ash or timur pepper is found across the Himalayas, from Kashmir to Nepal. Despite its name, it is unrelated to and unlike any chile or peppercorn. The reddish berries grow in clusters, among green flowers on the thorny, densely foliated winged prickly ash, also aptly called a toothache tree (keep reading to find out why). Each fruit contains a precious black seed; the reddish husk is dried and powdered along with the seed or used whole.
Why is timur pepper healthy?
Different parts of the winged prickly ash are used extensively by tribal communities in northeastern India, in food and all kinds of herbal formulations. The fruit, branches, and thorns are used for relief from toothaches, and young branches make for excellent anti-microbial, zero-waste toothbrushes. Timur extracts also go in commercial toothpaste. The seeds and fruit are ground to make a stomach tonic, for their cleansing and carminative properties.
What does timur pepper taste like?
Like other Zanthoxylum plants, timur peppers have hydroxy-alpha sanshool, a molecule that produces a buzzing sensation in the mouth. Less numbing than Sichuan pepper, timur berries have more citrusy overtones than its more famous cousin.
Where does timur pepper grow?
Once sourced from wild shrubs, timur pepper is now widely cultivated, especially in Nepal. It also grows in parts of Bhutan, Tibet, Kumaon, northeast India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Japan. Timur can also be found in China in the wild, alongside other Zanthoxylum species. A related plant, teppal or triphal ( Zanthoxylum rhetsa), grows in the Konkan belt and Maharashtra.
How do I prepare timur pepper and what do I pair it with?
The Bhotiya community of Kumaon make a warming winter soup called hag and a chutney called dunkcha from the berries, as well as alcoholic preparations from the plant. Besides chutney, use timur pepper to flavor roast potatoes or in any recipe that calls for Sichuan pepper. Infuse salt with timur pepper for a zesty seasoning.
Once the shrub’s fruiting season is over, Garhwali tribes harvest the wood to make walking sticks, which are sold at various Hindu pilgrimage sites in the Himalayan region.