Zanthoxylum is the Yellowwood genus, a plant genus that is not only known for its beautiful yellow wood, but especially for the Szechuan pepper, from which Chinese Szechuan cuisine owes its spicy reputation.
The term Szechuan pepper is not exclusively used for the Chinese pepper berries, but also for the berries that grow elsewhere, including those of other plants from this plant genus, some of which are also used culinary.
All plants - shrubs and trees - in the genus Zanthoxylum have in common that they are richly provided with 'spines'. Some species even have leaves on which spines grow. On the trunk the spines are often lignified and corky, sometimes of enormous size, and not sharp at all, but on the branches they are vicious, making harvesting the berries quite a task.
The plants owe their ambiguous name to toothpine due to the combination of the external relationship of the spines on the stem with molars, and to the fact that the berries are traditionally used as an anesthetic, including against toothache, and are also used in toothpaste.
Below are the varieties of which we sell the dried berries in our store. We give the Chinese name of each species, if available:
Zanthoxylum acantapodium - andaliman - 毛剌花椒 máo là huā jiāo
Zanthoxylum armatum - raye timur - 刺花椒 cì huā jiāoma
Zanthoxylum piperitum - sanshō - 日本花椒 rìběn huājiāo
Zanthoxylum bungeanum - flower pepper - 花椒 huājiāo
Zanthoxylum rhetsa/limonella - (Indian) mountain pepper - 胡椒木 hújiāo mù
Zanthoxylum piperitum - szechuan fagara pepper - ma jiāo
Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides - igi ata
The Indian mountain pepper is better known as ma khaen, mac khen or trpihal, respectively in Laos, Vietnam and India.