Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe drupes of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the pepper, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The drupes are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn. On some estates, the berries are separated from the stem by hand and then sun-dried without the boiling process.
Once the peppercorns are dried, pepper spirit & oil can be extracted from the berries by crushing them. Pepper spirit is used in many medicinal and beauty products. Pepper oil is also used as an ayurvedic massage oil and used in certain beauty and herbal treatments.
White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone, with the darker-colored skin of the pepper fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by a process known as retting, where fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the pepper softens anddecomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Sometimes alternative processes are used for removing the outer pepper from the seed, including removing the outer layer through mechanical, chemical or biological methods.
Ground white pepper is often used in cream sauces, Chinese and Thai cuisine, and dishes like salad, light-colored sauces and mashed potatoes, where black pepper would visibly stand out. White pepper has a slightly different flavor than black pepper, due to the lack of certain compounds present in the outer fruit layer of the drupe, but not found in the seed. A slightly sweet version of white pepper from India is sometimes called “whilte pepper”.
Green pepper, like black, is made from the unripe drupes. Dried green peppercorns are treated in a way that retains the green color, such as treatment with sulfur dioxide, canning or freeze-drying. Pickled peppercorns, also green, are unripe drupes preserved in brine or vinegar. Fresh, unpreserved green pepper drupes, largely unknown in the West, are used in some Asian cuisines, particularly Thai cuisine. Their flavor has been described as spicy and fresh, with a bright aroma. They decay quickly if not dried or preserved.
Orange pepper and red pepper
Orange pepper or red pepper usually consists of ripe red pepper drupes preserved in brine and vinegar. Ripe red peppercorns can also be dried using the same color-preserving techniques used to produce green pepper.
Pink pepper and other plants used as pepper
Pink pepper from Piper nigrum is distinct from the more-common dried “pink peppercorns“, which are actually the fruits of a plant from a different family, the Peruvian pepper tree, or its relative the Brazilian pepper tree, The bark of Drimys winteri (Canelo or Winter’s Bark) is used as a substitute for pepper in cold and temperate regions of Chile and Argentina where it is easily available.
In New Zealand the seeds of Kawakawa , a relative of black pepper, are sometimes used as pepper and the leaves (mountain horopito) are another replacement for pepper.
The pepper plant is a perennial woody vine growing up to 4 metres (13 ft) in height on supporting trees, poles, or trellises. It is a spreading vine, rootingreadily where trailing stems touch the ground. The leaves are alternate, entire, 5 to 10 cm long and 3 to 6 cm across. The flowers are small, produced on pendulous spikes 4 to 8 cm long at the leaf nodes, the spikes lengthening up to 7 to 15 cm as the fruit matures.The fruit of the black pepper is called a drupe and when dried it is a peppercorn.
Pepper can be grown in soil that is neither too dry nor susceptible to flooding, moist, well-drained and rich in organic matter (the vines do not do too well over an altitude of 3000 ft above sea level). The plants are propagated by cuttings about 40 to 50 centimeters long, tied up to neighboring trees or climbing frames at distances of about two meters apart; trees with rough bark are favored over those with smooth bark, as the pepper plants climb rough bark more readily. Competing plants are cleared away, leaving only sufficient trees to provide shade and permit free ventilation. The roots are covered in leaf mulch andmanure, and the shoots are trimmed twice a year. 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. The cuttings are usually cultivars, selected both for yield and quality of fruit.
A single stem will bear 20 to 30 fruiting spikes. The harvest begins as soon as one or two fruits at the base of the spikes begin to turn red, and before the fruit is fully mature, and still hard; if allowed to ripen completely, the fruit lose pungency, and ultimately fall off and are lost. The spikes are collected and spread out to dry in the sun, then the peppercorns are stripped off the spikes.
Pepper is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia and has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2 BCE. J. Innes Miller notes that while pepper was grown in southern Thailand and in Malaysia, its most important source was India, particularly the Malabar Coast, in what is now the state of Kerala Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good, often referred to as “black gold” and used as a form of commodity money. The legacy of this trade remains in some Western legal systems which recognize the term “peppercorn rent” as a form of a token payment made for something that is in fact being given.
The ancient history of black pepper is often interlinked with (and confused with) that of long pepper, the dried fruit of closely related Piper longum. The Romans knew of both and often referred to either as just “piper”. In fact, it was not until the discovery of the New World and of chili peppers that the popularity of long pepper entirely declined. Chili peppers, some of which when dried are similar in shape and taste to long pepper, were easier to grow in a variety of locations more convenient to Europe.
Before the 16th century, pepper was being grown in Java, Sunda, Sumatra, Madagascar, Malaysia, and everywhere in Southeast Asia. These areas traded mainly with China, or used the pepper locally. Ports in the Malabar area also served as a stop-off point for much of the trade in other spices from farther east in the Indian Ocean. Following the British hegemony in India, virtually all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa was traded from Malabar region.
Black pepper, along with other spices from Southern and Southeast Asia and lands farther east, changed the course of world history. It was in some part the preciousness of these spices that led to the Portuguese efforts to find a sea route to China during the age of discovery and consequently to the Portuguese colonial occupation of that country, as well as the European discovery and colonization of the Americas
Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from the piperine compound, which is found both in the outer fruit and in the seed. Black pepper contains between 4.6% and 9.7% piperine by mass, and white pepper slightly more than that. Refined piperine, by weight, is about one percent as hot as the capsaicin in chili peppers. The outer fruit layer, left on black pepper, also contains important odour-contributing terpenes including pinene, sabinene, limonene, caryophyllene, and linalool, which give citrusy, woody, and floral notes. These scents are mostly missing in white pepper, which is stripped of the fruit layer. White pepper can gain some different odours (including musty notes) from its longer fermentation stage.The aroma of pepper is attributed to rotundone a sesquiterpene originally discovered in the tubers of cyperus rotundus, which can be detected in concentrations of 0.4 nanograms/L in water and in wine: rotundone is also present in marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, and geranium, as well as in some Shiraz wines.
Pepper loses flavor and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve its spiciness longer. Pepper can also lose flavor when exposed to light, which can transform piperine into nearly tasteless isochavicine.Once ground, pepper’s aromatics can evaporate quickly; most culinary sources recommend grinding whole peppercorns immediately before use for this reason. Handheld pepper mills or grinders, which mechanically grind or crush whole peppercorns, are used for this, sometimes instead of pepper shakers that dispense pre-ground pepper. Spice mills such as pepper mills were found in European kitchens as early as the 14th century, but the mortar and pestle used earlier for crushing pepper have remained a popular method for centuries as well
Peppercorns (dried black pepper) are, by monetary value, the most widely traded spice in the world, accounting for 20 percent of all spice imports in 2002. The price of pepper can be volatile, and this figure fluctuates a great deal year to year; for example, pepper made up 39 percent of all spice imports in 1998. By weight, slightly more chili peppers are traded worldwide than peppercorns.
The International Pepper Exchange is located in Kochi, India. Participation in the IPE however is domestic with regulatory restrictions on international membership on local exchanges; something common to almost all Asian commodity exchanges.
As of 2008, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world’s Piper nigrum. Other major producers include India(19%), Brazil (13%), Indonesia (9%), Malaysia (8%), Sri Lanka (6%), China (6%), and Thailand (4%). Global pepper production peaked in 2003 with over 355,000 t (391,000 short tons), but has fallen to just over 271,000 t (299,000 short tons) by 2008 due to a series of issues including poor crop management, disease and weather. Vietnam dominates the export market, using almost none of its production domestically; however its 2007 crop fell by nearly 10% from the previous year to about 90,000 t (99,000 short tons). Similar crop yields occurred in 2007 across the other pepper producing nations as well