Black Pepper

Black Pepper

Piper nigrum

Black pepper is a stimulant for the digestive and circulatory systems.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names:
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Fruit
  • Side Effects: Use only culinary amounts of black pepper if pregnant and breastfeeding.
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About Black Pepper

Black pepper is the universal spice that has witnessed millennia of seasons. No dish can escape the sprinkle of black pepper as its smoky and spicy aura completes the code of whole cuisines. The vines of black pepper are a familiar treat in India but they are also grown in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil commercially to gain the peppercorns.

Black pepper climber vines grow can take the assistance of either walls or tall trees to manifest a good height of ten meters. Its unmistakable smoky, hot, and spicy taste makes it a perfect match for the savory dishes. It can also be crushed over sweet fruits like strawberries to enhance its sweet taste.

Black pepper is a small round fruit with a single seed and its signature taste due to its unique active ingredient called piperine. Apart from being in shakers on the dining table, black pepper also has its flags that flail with pride in medicinal areas. All thanks to piperine, it imparts various medicinal benefits like controlling elevated blood sugar levels, promoting healthy gut and brain activities, improving cholesterol levels, and so forth. Black pepper also works wonders when it comes to supporting respiratory tract infections, constipation, obesity, skin problems, hair loss, and even cancer.

Various meta-analyses prove that no matter the size of black pepper, it houses the whole medicinal arsenal in itself to combat a plethora of disorders.

Growing

Black pepper seeds can be sown indoors or outdoors in spring or summer, preferably when the temperature ranges between 75-85 °F. A little colder than the standard temperature can kill the plant.

The plant should be watered generously as black pepper cannot tolerate dry conditions. It requires dappled sunlight to grow so an indoor plant must be placed on a windowsill but should be taken away on hot noondays.

The stems of black pepper can be given the support of any wall or tree to help it climb higher and higher.

The black pepper plant is a bit slow to produce plant and subsequent fruits. The plant can take around three to four years to step into the flowering stage in order to produce peppercorns. But once the plant blossoms, it tends to blossom in summer and gives the peppercorns all year round.

Black pepper plant undergoes self-pollination to produce peppers. Peppercorns of different colors can be obtained, depending on the time of harvest. They contain just one seed inside them that can be utilized with a handful of others to witness a healthy perpetuation of the lifecycle of black pepper.

Harvesting

The criteria for harvesting black peppercorns differ from the white ones. The berries are harvested when they are green, shiny, and a bit mature. If the fruits attain red color then it is no use of harvesting them as they become white peppers after getting dried.

Peppercorns of black pepper plant are harvested zealously all around the world with knives or sharp pair of shears.

Green peppercorns are harvested when they are a bit mature (i.e. about to become red) and soaked in hot boiling water for 10 minutes. The berries are then taken out and sundried for 4 hours. In between these processes, the berries attain black color.

Usage

Small in quantity and great in virtue, black pepper is being used for centuries in its raw, ground, or roasted form to season the dishes and ameliorate the health.

  • Tincture- Infuse dried, chopped black peppercorns in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place. 
  • Tea- Crushed black peppers are combined with lemon juice and grated ginger. They all are rolled to boil and topped with some honey to make a perky black pepper tea.
  • Decoction- Roasted black pepper is crushed and boiled in water until the quantity of water reduces to half. The peppers are strained and the decocted liquid is sipped hot. Here, the black peppers are usually paired with cumin to synergize its efficacy.
  • Salve- black pepper essential oil is combined with olive oil and melted beeswax, along with nutmeg to make black pepper salve.
  • Syrup- Whole black peppercorns, white granulated sugar, and water are heated in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. The mixture is further simmered for 20 minutes and strained after cooling it to form black pepper syrup.