What Is Black Pepper?
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flower-producing vine in the Piperaceae family and is harvested for use as a seasoning, spice, or health supplement. Black pepper falls under the category of spices and condiments on most restaurant supply sites, and it shares a space on most dining tables with salt. The eastern part of the world celebrates this dried fruit of the tree Piperaceae, as the “King of Spices” and in ancient times it was also known as “Black Gold”.
Black pepper is extensively harvested in India where it is found in Abundance. Pepper grows best in warm climates and tropical regions and Vietnam is currently the world’s largest exporter of pepper.
Black Pepper Plant and Cultivation
Typically pepper orchard consists of a small plot of land where moisture and shade were abundant. The pepper vines would be planted next to tall trees in order to be able to train the vine’s growth pattern. The idea is to get the plant to grow upwards, allowing full berry production.
Pepper plants are planted at the beginning of the monsoon season. The plants would shoot up and start to climb the taller surrounding trees. The pepper berries grow on bushes that are cultivated to heights of about 13 ft (4 m). Pepper can be grown in soil that is neither too dry nor susceptible to flooding, moist, well-drained and rich in organic matter. On dry soils the young plants require watering every other day during the dry season for the first three years. The plants bear fruit from the fourth or fifth year, and typically continue to bear fruit for seven years.
Alternatively, the pepper berries can be picked just as they begin to turn red. They are plunged into boiling water for approximately 10 minutes, and they turn black or dark brown in an hour. The peppercorns are spread in the sun to dry for three to four days before they are taken to the factory to be ground. This process is quicker than air drying alone but requires the added step of the boiling water bath.
Black Pepper Description
Overview: A climber that grows to a height or length of 10 m or more. Once the main stem is established it grows many side shoots to create a bushy column.The plants form short roots, called adventitious roots, which connect to surrounding supports.
Leaves: Almond-shaped, tapering towards the tip, dark green and shiny above, paler green below, arranged alternately on the stems.
Flowers: Borne in clusters along flowering stalks known as spikes. 50–150 whitish to yellow-green flowers are produced on a spike.
Fruits: Round, berry-like, up to 6 mm in diameter, green at first but turning red as they ripen, each containing a single seed. 50–60 fruits are borne on each spike.
Fruits are picked when green and immature to produce green pepper; when fully grown but still green and shiny to produce black pepper; and when slightly riper to produce white pepper (for which the fruits are also soaked to remove the fleshy outer layer).
Producing Countries of Black Pepper
Over the last 20 years black pepper exports have increased from 76,816 tons to 197,447 tons recording an annual growth rate of 5%. Today, Vietnam is actually the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, accounting for 34%, while India now provides 19% of this spice. It’s interesting to think that pepper was once currency and now pepper and pepper grinders are items found in just about every home.
Consuming Countries of Black Pepper
United States is the number one importer of pepper in the world. United States imported more pepper than any one country exported. United States bought a total of 18% of the world’s pepper in 2009. The next largest buyer of pepper was Germany, who bought less than half that of the United States. Countries like Canada, Russia and Japan who preferred black pepper from India have now switched over to other import hubs such as Vietnam.
Recipe for Beverages with Black PepperBlack Pepper Tea Recipe
A: 2 cups filtered water
B: 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
C: (optional) 1 Tbsp. honey
D: (optional) 1 tsp. lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
E: (optional) 1 heaping teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
A: Bring the water to a boil.
B: Add all other ingredients and turn off the heat.
C: Allow to steep for three to five minutes.
D: Strain into two mugs and drink while hot.