Black pepper is an ingredient in so many different types of recipes. Not only that, but it’s also present as a table spice on practically every table in America. You know that black pepper can add zest and flavor to your meals, but do you know where it actually comes from?
Myth Buster Time:
Black pepper does not come from a garden plant at all, and it’s one of the oldest and most coveted spices in history. When it’s contained in a shaker it is already crushed and ready to use, but black pepper in its whole form is a small ball (think inside of a grinder) called a peppercorn. Additionally, there are many different colors of peppercorns, including the classic black peppercorn that is a dinner table staple.
Read on to learn more about this common-yet-interesting spice.
Peter Piper Picked a… Well, You Know
Black pepper comes from the Piperaceae family, and it is scientifically known as Piper nigrum or black pepper plant.
Grown on a vine that can reach 13 feet in length, it is actually the fruit of the vine – aka, the peppercorn. It is only after the fruit is dried that it resembles the hard, wrinkled peppercorns you might recognize from your pepper grinder.
Now, the black pepper spice is not the same as the red, yellow, and green peppers you might grow in your garden, or see in a grocery store. That type of pepper is actually a member of the nightshade family.1
A History Lesson
Most spices have quite a long history, and pepper is no exception. Historically, those little black peppercorns have traveled quite a distance.
- Use of this spice can be traced back to Southwestern India thousands of years ago.1
- It can also be found in recipes from ancient Imperial Rome.3,4
- As of 2016, Vietnam is the world’s leader in production and export of black pepper, followed closely by India and Brazil.5
Black Pepper Benefits
Besides the obvious flavor and punch that black pepper adds to your cooking, the peppercorn provides you some serious health benefits, too.
Black peppercorns are beneficial to your body in a huge range of ways – from antioxidant effects to detoxifying properties, and enhancing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.6
With so many positive effects, it’s a no-brainer to incorporate this type of pepper into your daily diet.
A Black Pepper Identity Crisis
Would you believe that white pepper and green pepper all originate from the same exact plant as black pepper?
Black, white, and green peppercorns all are the same fruit from the same plant. Their color changes depending on when they’re picked and how they’re treated after they’re harvested.
- Black Peppercorn: Picked when the fruit is not yet mature and dried to preserve the spicy outer layer.
- Green Peppercorn: Picked when the fruit is still young and often preserved with brine before drying to keep its color.
- White Peppercorn: Picked when the fruit is mature, just like black peppercorn. However, they are treated to soften the dark, tough outer layer to expose the white flesh inside the fruit.7
Spice Up Your Life
Whether you love spicy food — or simply appreciate the health benefits — black pepper is a powerhouse among spices, and it’s a must-have in any household. So, the next time you reach for pepper during dinner prep, be sure to think about the incredible journey it’s taken before arriving in your kitchen.
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