Pepper, the world’s most popular spice :
Known as the “King of Spices”, pepper is the most important spice traded internationally.
Pepper come from the shrub classified as Piper nigrum. Piper nigrum is one of about 1,000 species in the Piper genus that is part of the larger family of peppers called Piperaceae. The various species of Piper are grown mostly as woody shrubs, small trees, and vines in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
A berry grown in grape like clusters, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. When dried, the fruit is known as a peppercorn. Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity for both its flavour and as a traditional medicine. It is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world.
Peppercorns are green when harvested, and change color while drying. After harvesting, the skin can be removed before or after drying to obtain the white pepper. The fruits are red when ripe and green when mature and ready for harvest.
The berry is processed to produce three basic types: black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (ripe fruit seeds). the difference in their color is a reflection of varying stages of development and processing methods.
Black peppercorns are picked when almost ripe and sun-dried, turning the outer layer black. Black pepper is the most pungent and flavorful of all types of peppers and it is available as whole or cracked peppercorns or ground into powder.
Green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green in color. The green peppercorn is the soft, under ripe berry that is usually preserved in brine. They are usually packed in liquid, freeze-dried or dehydrated to keep the green color. They have a very strong flavor that is less pungent than the berry in its other forms.
White peppercorns are picked when very ripe and subsequently soaked in brine to remove their dark outer shell leaving just the white pepper seed. White Peppercorns are Black Pepper without skin. White pepper is much hotter than black pepper since the skin has been removed, and it is the most preferred.
10 things to know about Pepper:
- Pepper is native to south India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. The plant is particular about soil conditions and thrives in soil that is not too dry and not too wet.
- The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine found in the white center of the Peppercorn.
- Ground table Pepper is typically 70% black and 30% white. However, the good stuff is 50/50.
- Pepper loses its flavor and aroma through evaporation. Keep it in an airtight container and out of the sun.
- For the best flavor, buy Whole Peppercorns and grind right before eating.
- Black pepper is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin K, a very good source of copper and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, chromium and calcium.
- Accounting for about 20% of the monetary value of the world’s spice trade, Black Pepper is mainly produced in Vietnam and India. India is the second largest producer of pepper.
- The United States is currently the biggest consumer of Pepper, importing 671 million dollars of Pepper in 2009. That’s 18% of the world’s Pepper.
- Some people can be allergic to black pepper but not white since white pepper is only the seed and not the whole fruit.
- Red or pink peppercorns are when the berry has ripened and is then harvested. These are actually very rare, and have a sweet mellow flavor of pepper.