Close to citrus fruits
The Sichuan pepper tree is a shrub that can become a small tree, of the genus Zanthoxylum. It belongs to the citrus family and has with them a strong smell, both peppery and spicy, but not very spicy. The Sichuan pepper plant forms pink berries (but these are not the “pink berries” that are used in cooking). When they dry, they release a black seed which we get rid of, to use only the outer part of the berry, the most fragrant and the most tender. Ground, this part enhances salads, cooked dishes and preserves.

So easy in the garden
Zanthoxylum is a plant that is satisfied with little. Its worst enemy is complete shade, which prevents it from flowering and therefore from bearing fruit. It is not afraid of humidity in winter and drought in summer, resists perfectly to high summer heat and to -18°C and less in winter. So don’t worry too much about the best place to plant it! In rich soil that is not too dry in summer, it nevertheless grows visibly and produces a lot. The shrub tends to grow in height more than in width. It normally does not need pruning but you can force it to grow into a tree (with a single trunk) by cutting off the branches that appear along the main stem, up to 1.20 m long. This pruning slows berry production.

Slow but steady production
A Sichuan pepper plant can produce in its third year, so a young plant can bear fruit the year it is purchased. However, a fairly rich and cool soil in summer encourages it to produce more easily. The first years, however, the harvests are quite modest (enough to fill a pepper pot). A 10-year-old Sichuan pepper plant will produce far more berries than you will need, and your friends will benefit too.

Good to know
The dried and powdered leaves have a scent very close to berries. In Japan, we prefer to use the leaves of the Sichuan pepper plant rather than its berries. Use young leaves, without stripping your plant, if you can’t wait to taste it!

It stings… but not the palate!
Zanthoxylum are somewhat thorny plants, like brambles or roses, but less fierce. With age, the plant bears less and less prickles. It is safer to plant them away from busy places to avoid getting caught in them.

By Me

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