Indonesia's Cabya - The Javanese long pepper

In any Indonesian kitchen, chili pepper is a staple ingredient. However, this plant really isn’t native to Indonesia at all. The Javanese long pepper (Piper retrofractum Vahl), locally known as cabya.

The standard chili peppers we know and love today are members of the plant genus Capsicum. Common variants include Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens) and green chili pepper (Capsicum annuum). These variants are native to North and South America and were introduced to Indonesia in the 16th century by Portuguese and Spanish sailors who had come to Southeast Asia with the product.

The cabya fruit’s shape is somewhat similar to the modern chili pepper. As the fruit matures, it also goes from green to red. However, the texture is unique. While the skin is smooth, it has many small ridges, resembling the fruit of the Swiss cheese plant.

Cabya is still used in Java, but the overwhelming popularity of the capsicum plants eventually crowded out cabya consumption until it was only used in traditional herbal medication and in making jamu (Indonesian traditional herbal drink).

Nowadays, the plant is considered rare, says It is believed to be able to treat anemia, headache and a variety of other ailments.

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