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Several species of Zanthoxylum grow in Africa, a plant genus that also includes the Asian Sichuan pepper. One of those species is the Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides, which grows in West Africa and is called igi-ata in Yoruba, which means tree pepper. Less fragrant than the Asian varieties perhaps, even a little bitter, but truly African.

Other names are baies gangshu, baies de Malam and Bakumba pepper (after the region name Bakumba) or Bamenda-Banso pepper, after a more northern region in the high mountains.

Available again

Pepper is cultivated on a very limited scale in Africa anywaywd, and this certainly applies to the Szechuan pepper. In Nigeria, uzazi (Zanthoxylum gilletii) is grown on a small scale, but that is it as far as growing citrus peppers is concerned. All other citrus peppers are picked from trees and shrubs in the wild, such as this one, which grows in Bakumba, an area in the south-west of Cameroon, where the Yoruba language is spoken, hence the name igi-ata, also called here after the French 'baies ( called the) Ganshu' ganshu pepper.

It is a pepper that you hardly see on the European market, for a number of reasons. Because it is a difficult fruit to pick, and therefore relatively expensive, and because export is quite difficult. Moreover, the taste and smell of the igi-ata are inconsistent. These can vary considerably, from harvest to harvest, from area to area, perhaps even from tree to tree, the experts do not yet agree. Sometimes the citrus aromas sometimes dominate the camphor, and not everyone is charmed by the bitter notes.

This is caused by the seeds, which, like the andaliman, are more bitter than the pericarp.

The igi-ata is a shrub/tree that grows to about six meters high and is strongly branched. For West Africans, the tree has traditionally been more important as medicine than as food, and for that reason the species' population is under pressure in some countries, such as Benin.

Like the other Zanthoxylum plants, the trunk and branches of the igi-ata have thorns. Thick lignified thorns on the trunk that develop a cork outer layer during growth, vicious sharp thorns on the branches. Just like the leaves of the uzazi, even the leaves of the igi-ata have thorns. They are located in the heart of the leaf.

The unique sharpness experience of sanshol

Characteristic of all Zanthoxylum peppers, and therefore also of this Szechuan pepper, is the tingling you experience on the tip of your tongue due to a substance in the pepper called sanshool, named after the Japanese sanshō. The pungency is caused by the amides in the peel of the fruit: α-, β-, γ- and δ-sanshool, α hidroxy sanshool and β-hidroxy sanshool. γ sanshool and α hidroxy sanshool are mainly responsible for the anesthetic effect. The amount of α-hidroxy-sanshool in the berries can amount to (more than) 50 ‰ of the dry weight, of γ sanshool around 5 ‰.

The tingling is accompanied by a slight numbness, jokingly compared to tasting a 9 volt battery. One single berry is enough to experience that! This somatosensation, stimulation by touch, has been used as an anesthetic in traditional medicine in Asia for centuries. The effect is very complex and the subject of extensive studies. Hydroxy-α-sanshol in particular is said to cause the tingling, and there are certain parallels with the pungency sensation of capsaicin, the pungent substance in chili peppers, but also with menthol and mustard oil.

Smell and taste

In Igi-ata, the citrus smell that characterizes Sichuan peppers is hardly present, and the seeds even taste pleasant, and less bitter than the seed casings can be. The sharpness is generally not too bad (or bad), depending on how you look at it, and can be called subtle rather than prominent. This is an anthology just from the wide palate:

  • sabinene, responsible for the woody, camphoraceous flavor of black pepper, among others
  • β-myrcene, spicy aroma, with notes of fruits (mango, grape, peach) and mint,
  • germacrene D, spicy and woody,
  • D-limonene (dipentene), sweet orange flavor, modestly present in nutmeg, mace and cardamom
  • β-caryophyllene, sweet spicy and woody
  • decanal, associated with the bitterness of grapefruit and orange peel, also found in buckwheat and coriander

Use igi-ata with products that go well with citrus, such as crustaceans and shells, white fish and chicken, plantain (traditional use) and other fruit.


Crush the fruit to release the seeds. These are easier to grind than the seed pods, which are best ground. Just like the whole berries (with seeds). Process igi-ata as follows. Rub the berries between your hands to loosen the seed casings, seeds and stems. If you don't want the bitterness, remove the seeds and grind the pepper. You can also put the stems and seeds whole in a bag and cook or braise them. After cooking, simply remove the bag from the dish.

Igi-ata is less widely applicable than the Chinese Szechuan pepper, due to its robust flavor palette. It is best suited for typical African dishes, such as soup and stews, provided that ata-rodo (chili pepper) has not already been added in large quantities. That would push this subtle pepper into the background. Igi-ata also combines excellently with (bitter) leafy vegetables.


  • 100% berries of Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides
  • origin: Ganshu, Bakumba region, Cameroon


  • available in glass, stand-up pouch and test tube
  • glass jar contains 30 grams
  • stand-up pouches with a capacity of up to 30 to 60 grams
  • available in 10 ml test tube
  • larger quantities on request

Gift packaging

  • the jar is available in a tasteful gift packaging, consisting of a cube box filled with black tissue paper
  • for an overview of our gift packaging, please refer to the gift packaging section

General advice

  • Igi-ata is a Sichuan pepper with a typical African signature, mainly used in African dishes or more generally in fairly robust dishes, the spiciness is moderate
  • store the pepper in a dark, dry and cool place


  • store your kampot pepper in closed packaging
  • preferably store in a dark, dry and cool place
  • best before November 2026 (11/26)
  • this expiration date is an indication

Would you like to know what Igi-ata tastes like?

You can also try a test tube.The tube contains enough pepper to understand the flavor essence.
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