Black Pepper – Piper Nigrum
The pepper plant is a tall climbing vine grown in tropical countries in the world. It is native to India.
This perennial can reach 5 meters (15 feet). It has large oval shaped leaves and tiny white flowers.
The peppercorns grow in clusters and are small and round. The fruit clusters on the piper nigrum are called drupes. They ripen from green to red. After they are dried they are called peppercorns.
Green peppercorns are picked when the drupe is unripe and then they are preserved, often pickled.
Black pepper is also picked when the drupe is green and unripe. The green peppercorns are dried. Some will boil the unripe green drupes before drying. Others will sundry the peppercorns without boiling them first.
During the drying process the peppercorns will wrinkle and darken. Soon we will have what is widely known as black pepper.
To get red and white pepper the drupes are picked when they are ripe and have a red color.
For red pepper the ripe drupes are dried.
For white pepper the ripe peppercorns are soaked in water for about eight days before drying. The outer pepper is removed and only the seed inside is dried and sold as white pepper.
Black pepper is about as common as salt. Black pepper naturally accompanies salt on the table to season dishes. It is used to flavor hundreds of different recipes. Pepper can be used to season almost any kind of food. The latest fad is black pepper ice cream which is becoming increasingly popular; who would have thought?
When you are cooking pepper should always be added to the food just before serving to uphold the health benefits and the flavor of pepper.
Black pepper has a warming effect in the body. This is probably the best known benefit of black pepper.
Black pepper improves the digestive system. It helps reduce stomach pains and bloating. Black pepper is known to increase the appetite.
Black pepper is a great antioxidant. Many believe black pepper is a valuable aid in fighting colon cancer.
The peperine found in black pepper has proven to increase the absorption of curcumin found in turmeric. The combination of black pepper and turmeric has shown encouraging results in the battle against breast cancer.
Black pepper also increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B, selenium and beta-carotene.
All in all black pepper is a wonderful spice. Remember to grind the whole peppercorns yourself in order to take advantage of the benefits of black pepper.
Black pepper has been used since Ancient times. Pepper was very expensive and considered legal currency for goods. Attila the Hun demanded 3000 pounds (1360kg) of black pepper as ransom payment when he laid siege of Rome in 408 CE. They arrived with gold and left with pepper. Black pepper was considered so valuable it was referred to as “black gold”.
Black pepper which is native to India has been used there both for culinary and medicinal purposes for 4000 years. Pepper was one of the few “medicines” Buddhist monks were permitted to carry.
The Chinese have used black pepper as medicine as far back as 4000 years ago. It was used to treat stomach pains.
The mummified body of Ramses II was found with peppercorns in his nostrils. He died in 1213 BCE.
In Europe during the Middle Ages black pepper was something only the wealthy could afford. This could be something to think about and maybe show more appreciation for this lovely spice we all take for granted.