Black Pepper

Black pepper to the back of your shelf, think twice. The humble spice holds more benefits than you'd imagine. It belongs to the Piperaceae family, and is processed in different ways to yield different kinds of peppers. For instance, the cooked and dried unripe fruit is black pepper, the green pepper is from the dried and unripe fruit, and white pepper are the seeds from the ripened fruit of the plant. While pepper originally belongs to South India, it's grown in other tropical countries as well. It's played a vital role in history, and has been considered as an important spice from time immemorial. In ancient Greece, it was also used as currency. In later years, it became pivotal in the spice trade across the world.

Black pepper holds a unique space in the average North American home. After all, whereas other spices live tucked away in dark cupboards black pepper proudly stands in shakers and grinders on the kitchen counter or – holiest of holy places – the dining table in nearly every single home and restaurant. It’s the only spice that finds its way into nearly every single dish.

But what exactly is black pepper and where does it come from?

Peppercorns are actually the fruits of a flowering vine in the Piperaceae family. The green, wide-leafed vines grow long tendrils where cylindrical clusters of the berries ripen. The fruits are small containing a thin skin, very little actual fruit, and a single large seed. The fruits are picked at varying degrees of ripeness depending on the strength and type of pepper desired and then processed accordingly.

The vine is native to India but is grown in nearly every tropical region. Vietnam currently grows and exports the most black pepper, totaling around 35% of the world’s supply, followed by India, Brazil, China and Sri Lanka. Used in practically every single style of cuisine imaginable pepper is the most traded spice worldwide and makes up 20% of the world’s total spice trade. In fact, the black pepper trade is worth billions of dollars annually!

It’s not too much of a surprise considering this piquant little spice has been beloved for thousands of years. For a long time, is was primarily utilized as a medicine. The spice was even used in preserving mummies (Ramses the Great’s body had peppercorns stuffed in the nostrils to help keep the body clean) and thought by many to cure insomnia and toothaches.
Apart from enhancing the flavour of the dish, the king of spices is known to offer a number of health benefits. Regular intake of black pepper in the diet aids in weight loss, improves digestion, boosts metabolism, treat skin problems, asthma, treats sinus and nasal congestion. It also reduces the risk of cancer, and heart and liver ailments. The nutritionist further adds, '' black pepper aids digestion by stimulating enzymes and juices. It is also a remedy that cures cold and cough by stimulating circulation and mucous flow.''