Pepper — The spice that changed history

Black, white, green and pink peppercorns all are obtained from the small dried berry of the vine Piper nigrum; they simply are picked at different stages of ripeness.

Black, white, green and pink peppercorns all are obtained from the small dried berry of the vine Piper nigrum; they simply are picked at different stages of ripeness.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco —

Pepper was so precious in ancient times that it was used as money to pay taxes, tributes, dowries and rent. Weighed like gold, it was used as a common medium of exchange. Pepper was the spice that inspired the search for new routes to the East and changed the course of history.

Black, white, green and pink peppercorns all are obtained from the small dried berry of the vine Piper nigrum; they simply are picked at different stages of ripeness. For black pepper, the green berries are picked and piled in heaps to ferment for a few days. They are then sun-dried until they shrivel, turn hard and change to a brownish-black color.

For white pepper, the berry is picked when fully ripe and soaked in water to remove the outer layer of shrunken skin. The gray inner peppercorns are then dried until they turn creamy white. White pepper has a milder, more delicate flavor than the hot, piney taste of black pepper.

Black pepper adds flavor to the food of almost every nation in the world. White pepper is mainly used whole in pickling spices and marinades. Ground white pepper is especially popular in European cuisine and is used in light-colored foods such as sauces and soups.

Indonesia is the major exporter of white pepper, but Malaysia and Brazil are other important sources. India, Indonesia, Brazil and Malaysia are the principal exporters of black pepper.

Because pepper can be stored for many years without losing its flavor and aroma, it has long been known as the master spice. It is best to grind peppercorns as needed, as the aroma of pepper disappears quickly after grinding.

Pepper stimulates the taste buds and helps promote gastric secretions. In folklore, pepper was said to help relieve flatulence and have diuretic properties.

 

Joanne Henning Tedesco is editor of AzNetNews.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 1, February/March 2006.

, , , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics