Other names: Piper Nigrum, Kali Mirchi, काली मिर्च, Black Pepper, மிளகு, গোল মরিচ Gol Morich, నల్ల మిరియాలు
Translations: Piper negru, Tiêu đen, Pieprz czarny, Sort Pepper, Черный перец, Μαύρο πιπέρι, فلفل أسود, 후추, Černý pepř, 黑胡椒, Negre pebre, Čierne korenie, Pepe nero, פלפל שחור, Svartpeppar, Црни бибер, 黒コショウ, Poivre noir, काली मिर्च, Negro pimienta, Чорний перець, Mustapippuria, Черен пипер
Black peppercorns are made by picking the pepper berries when they are half ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry which causes them to shrivel and become dark in color. Alternatively, green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green in color, while white peppercorns are picked when very ripe and subsequently soaked in brine to remove their dark outer shell leaving just the white pepper seed.
Food complements: Western cuisine, European cuisine, Asian cuisine
Wine complements: Any
Beverage complements: Non
Selecting and Buying
Seasonality: january, february, march, april, may, june, july, august, september, opctober, november, december
Choosing: Black pepper is available whole, crushed or ground into powder. To ensure best flavor, buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself in a mill just before adding to a recipe. In addition to superior flavor, buying whole peppercorns will help to ensure that you are purchasing unadulterated pepper since ground pepper is oftentimes mixed with other spices. Whole peppercorns should be heavy, compact and free of any blemishes.
Buying: Even through dried herbs and spices like black pepper are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing black pepper try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating black pepper may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C content.)
Pepper is a warm growing plant that will stop growing when below 65F and will not tolerate any amount of frost. Fortunately they make very good container plants.
Pipers like to be in partial to full sun with 50% or better humidity (although they do fine below 50%) Plants should be watered thoroughly when soil appears dry.
Pipers are moderate to light feeders and should be fed with a 10-10-10 fertilizer 1/4 tsp per gallon every 1-2 weeks (discontinuing in the winter)
For peppercorn production, pipers should be grown under bright light and kept warm. They are vining in nature and slow growing. It will take a couple of years before they start producing flowers then peppercorns.
Pipers are not prone to insect problems. The only disease problems are due to root diseases. It is important to keep pipers warm (above 65F) and to not keep wet or allowed to totally dry out.
Preparation and Use
Add pepper that you have freshly ground in a mill at the end of the cooking process. Since it loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding it near the end will help to preserve its flavor
Conserving and Storing
Black pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while ground pepper will stay fresh for about three months. Pepper can also be frozen although this will make its flavor more pronounced.
Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BC. Little else is known about the use of pepper in ancient Egypt and how it reached the Nile from India.
Pepper (both long and black) was known in Greece at least as early as the 4th century BC, though it was probably an uncommon and expensive item that only the very rich could afford. Trade routes of the time were by land, or in ships which hugged the coastlines of the Arabian Sea. Long pepper, growing in the north-western part of India, was more accessible than the black pepper from further south; this trade advantage, plus long pepper's greater spiciness, probably made black pepper less popular at the time.
Native to India, pepper has played a very important role throughout history and has been a prized spice since ancient times. Since ancient Greece, pepper has held such high prestige that it was not only used as a seasoning but as a currency and a sacred offering. Pepper was used to both honor the gods and to pay taxes and ransoms. During the fall of ancient Rome, the invading barbarians were even honored by being given black pepper. Additionally, in the Middle Ages the wealth of a man was oftentimes measured by his stockpile of pepper.
The reason that pepper was so cherished is that it served important culinary purposes. Not only could its pungency spice up otherwise bland foods, but it could disguise a food's lack of freshness, the latter being an especially important quality in the times before efficient means of preservation.
Pepper became an important spice that catalyzed much of the spice trade. This not only led to exploration of many undiscovered lands, but also to the development of major merchant cities in Europe and the Middle East.
Today, the major commercial producers of pepper are India and Indonesia.