Piper nigrum Linn.
Family : Piperaceae
Other names: Pepper; white
pepper; green peppercorns
Black pepper (Piper nigrum),
the king of spices, is one of the oldest and the most popular spice
in the world. It is a perennial, climbing vine indigenous to the
Malabar Coast of India. The hotly pungent spice made from its berries
is one of the earliest spices known and is probably
the most widely used spice in the world today. It was mentioned
as far back as 1000 BC in ancient Sanskrit literature. In early
historic times black pepper was widely cultivated in the tropics
of Southeast Asia, where it became an important article of overland
trade between India and Europe. It became a medium of exchange,
and tributes were levied in black pepper in ancient Greece and Rome.
In the Middle Ages the Venetian and the Genoese became the main
distributors, their virtual monopoly of the trade helping to instigate
the search for an eastern sea route. The name pepper comes from
the Sanskrit word pippali meaning berry.
Apart from India, black pepper is
widely cultivated throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, tropica
Africa, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China also. It is a branching
vine with a smooth, woody, articulate stem swollen at the joints.
A woody climber, it may reach heights of 10m by means of its aerial
roots. Its broad, shiny green, pointed , petiolate leaves are alternately
arranged. The sessile, white, small flowers are borne in pendulous,
dense, slender spikes of about 50 blossoms each. The berry-like
fruits, or peppercorns, are round, about 0.5 - 1.0 cm in diameter
and contain a single seed. They become yellowish red at maturity
and bear a single seed. The odour is penetrating and aromatic; the
taste is hot, biting and very pungent.
plant requires a long rainy season, fairly high temperatures, and
partial shade for the best growth. Propagation is usually by stem
cuttings. The cuttings are set out near a tree or a pole that will
serve as a support. Black pepper plants are sometimes interspersed
in tea or coffee plantations. They begin bearing in 2 to 5 years
and may produce for as long as 40 years. The berries are picked
when they begin to turn red. The collected berries are scalded with
boiling water for about 10 minutes, which causes them to turn dark
brown or black in an hour. Then they are spread out to dry in the
sun for three or four days. The whole peppercorns, when ground,
yield black pepper.
White pepper is obtained by removing
the outer part of the pericarp of the ripened berries. The outer
coating is softened either by keeping the berries in moist heaps
fir 2 or 3 days or by keeping them in sacks submerged in running
water for 7 to 15 days, depending on the region. The softened outer
coating is then removed by washing and rubbing or by trampling,
and the berries are spread in the sun to dry. Whole white pepper
can also be prepared by grinding off the outer coating mechanically.
The flavour is less pungent than that of black pepper. Green pepper
are immature berries freeze dried or mechanically air dried. They
are available pickled in brine or vinegar.
Black and white pepper have two main
components, the volatile oil and the pungent components, commonly
known as piperine. Black pepper contains about 0.6 - 2.6 % essential
oil that has the aromatic flavour of black pepper but not the pungency.
The level varies depending on the source, maturity and variety.
Of the 100 different components in the essential oil, the main ones
are a-pinene, b-pinene, 1-a-phellandrene, b-caryophyllene, limonene
and sabine-delta-3-carene. The main pungency principle is piperine,the
trans, trans form of 1-piperoylpiperidine. Other minor pungent alkaloids
are piperidine, piperettine, piperyline, piperanine and piperolein
A and B.
Aroma and Flavour
Black pepper is used in almost all
applications where spice is used, with exception of baked goods.
It is used universally in sauces, gravies, processed meats, poultry,
snack foods etc. Both black and white pepper are used in cuisine
worldwide, at all stages of the cooking process and as a table condiment.
White pepper has a distinguishably different flavour but is utilized
to a lesser extent.
It is used in processed meats and
in applications where dark specking is not desired. Black pepper
is added to fruit cakes and gingerbread and is also used as a light
seasoning on fresh fruit. Black pepper oleoresin is also used for
Medicinal and other use
Black pepper has long been recognized
as a stimulant to appetite as well as an aid in the relief of nausea.
In India it is being used since time immemorial as a medicine for
a number of health problems.