The Pepper Plant
A pinch of black pepper is added to almost every type of recipe imaginable. Once used as currency and presented to the “gods” as a sacred offering, it is fortunate that this most popular of spices is available throughout the year.
Black pepper comes from the pepper plant, a smooth woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet in hot and humid tropical climates. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3 to 4 years and develop into berries known as peppercorns. Ground peppercorns produce the spice we call pepper.
Black Pepper is the foremost detoxifier and anti-aging herb in Asia.
A warming digestive remedy, black pepper relieves gas and increases absorption of other nutrients.
Increasing circulation, regulating blood pressure and easing joint movement, black pepper is also antioxidant, reducing free radicals.
Black Pepper prevents the destruction of vitamin A and other antioxidants. Black pepper is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of iron and vitamin K, and a good source of dietary fiber.
Black Pepper reduces respiratory mucus, easing sinus congestion. As a diuretic, it balances water in the body and regulates eye pressure. Black pepper can be added to your meals to relieve a sinus infection, and combined with turmeric and lemon juice in a homemade tea concoction to relieve sore muscles and body aches.
Worried about your favorite graphic T-shirt fading in the laundry after multiple washes? Spice up your wash! The next time you’re washing colored clothes, add a teaspoon of black pepper to the load, which will help keep the colors on the fabric bright.
Black Pepper as a Culinary Seasoning
Pepper is the most popular spice in the world. The original use of pepper was to mask the rancid taste of meat that spoiled quickly before the days of refrigeration. Pepper was the ransom the Huns demanded when they lay siege to Rome; it was the prime goal of Columbus as he sought a new route to the Spice Islands. At one time, pepper was literally worth its weight in gold. In the Middle Ages, a pound of pepper bought a serf’s freedom. In Colonial America, pepper fueled the fortune that founded Yale University.
Pink and red peppercorns are not in the same family as black peppercorns, despite similarities in size and shape. Bright peppercorns add a sweet, peppery flavor to foods. Regardless of the color of choice, the best pepper is fresh pepper. A peppermill is as much a part of a restaurant as the food itself. The virtues of fresh ground pepper are indisputable.
Peppercorns are green when picked unripe, but as they dry, they become black. The ripening color sequence is green to yellow to red. White pepper is actually the inside of the black peppercorn. When green in color, peppercorns are softer and milder than black peppercorns.
Pepper can complement or contrast flavors in a recipe. For example, it accentuates the flavor of cinnamon and cloves. A pinch of pepper can keep sweet potato dishes from being overpoweringly sweet. Pepper does lose some of its flavor in the cooking process, which is why many add fresh ground pepper before serving a dish.
When choosing a peppermill, if it is not supposed to be a dominant flavor, grind the peppers fine.
Generally speaking, the finer the grind the more immediately available the flavor will be and the shorter the shelf life.
A dry place with moderate temperature is the best storage climate for pepper. If stored properly, whole pepper keeps almost indefinitely.
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