Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. The West African spice commonly known as Grains of paradise, Melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains or Guinea pepper is obtained from this plant; it gives a pungent, peppery flavor.
The seeds have a pungent, peppery taste due to aromatic ketones, e.g., (6)-paradol (systematic name: 1-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-decan-3-one). Essential oils, which are the dominating flavor components in the closely related cardamom, occur only in traces.
Grains of paradise are commonly employed in the cooking styles of West Africa and North Africa, where they have been traditionally imported via caravan routes through the Sahara desert. Grains of paradise became a very fashionable substitute for black pepper in the 14th and 15th century Europe, especially in northern France, one of the most populous regions in Europe at the time. In the early modern period, the craze for the spice waned and it became more common as a flavoring for sausages and beer. Today it is largely unknown outside of West and North Africa, except for its use as a flavoring in some beers (including Samuel Adams Summer Ale), Vosges Haut-Chocolate's 'Field Songs' Truffle, gins, and Norwegian aquavit.