A Lesson In: Pepper
It is the world’s most traded spice and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Black pepper is often described as the “king of spices,” and it shares a place on most dinner tables with salt. It is actually the number one selling spice in America with the United States being the biggest consumer, importing 671 million dollars of Pepper in 2009. That’s 18% of the world’s Pepper! For such a used spice, there are many facts that people do not know about. Let’s dive into this spectacular spice.
Pepper is typically cultivated in tropical regions and is mainly produced in India, Vietnam, Brazil, and Indonesia. Accounting for about 20% of the monetary value of the world’s spice trade, pepper has been used in cooking for over 2000 years and counting. In fact, during the Middle Ages, Peppercorns were worth more than silver in weight!
The pepper plant grows for a minimum of three years during which time small flowers form, which then turn into berries. The berries are then harvested, while they are still green in color and unripe. They are then dried until they shrivel and turn black in color. The end result is the peppercorn as we know it.
So how best to use this versatile spice? It’s best to stick to whole peppercorns and grinding your pepper fresh. Pre-ground pepper loses its aroma quickly, making it dull by the time you get to cook with it. It can also lose flavor when exposed to light so make sure to store it in the dark.
Even better than its great taste is the health benefit with this spice. Black pepper helps improve your stomach’s ability to digest foods and promotes intestinal health. Pepper is rich in both vitamin A and C and is a powerful antioxidant. Components of black pepper have been added to mouthwashes to treat sore throats. It’s also been known to increase appetite.
With great taste and health benefits, pepper is a staple in kitchens around the world. Next time you reach for this striking spice, remember its rich history.