Use in potpourri blends, aroma sprays, perfume and for muscle treatment
Piperine, safrole, beta-pinene, limonene, terpinene, alpha-pinene, various sesquiterpenes and monoterpene derivatives, including borneol, carvone, carvacrol, 1,8-cineol and linalool.
Lends mild heat and pungent flavorto a wide variety of foods and beverages.
Has Insecticidal properties.
Black, White, Green and Pink
Seeds or berries
Dried whole, powdered, essential oil
Just like green tea, all peppercorns come from the same plant, in this case Piper nigrum. Although it may take several years for this flowering vine to produce berries, or peppercorns, it usually continues to do for several decades. Peppercorns vary in color because they are harvested and/or processed differently. Green peppercorns, for instance, are picked when slightly under-ripe, red peppercorns are harvested just as they reach maturity on the vine and black peppercorns get their color from basking in the sun for several days. However, when blending mixed peppercorn spice, pink peppercorn (Schinus terebinthifolius) is used for color versus the ripened red Piper nigrum.
Please note: Pink peppercorn can cause an allergic reaction in people with nut allergies.
The pink peppercorn in this blend are part of the cashew family and can cause allergic reactions in those with nut allergies. (The other peppercorns in this mix are of the unrelated Piper nigrum species.)
The pepper plant is an evergreen, perennial vine that produces a berry-like fruit that is technically a drupe since it contains a single seed but more commonly referred to as a peppercorn. The drupes, which form up to 50 fertilized white flowers on spikes, take three to five years to first appear, and then reappear every third season thereafter. However, a pepper plant may continue to produce fruit for as long as 40 years.
Pepper is a liane, which means it trains itself on whatever is available in the environment or, in cultivation, on wire or frames. In some areas of cultivation, pepper vines are grown on vertical frames or given freedom to wrap around trees, which necessitates pruning. Peppercorns are harvested by hand when the unripe “berries” are still green, although a number that have already turned red will be sorted out after collection. Green peppercorns are preferred in Asian cooking, particularly in Thailand where they are used to flavor duck and other game meats. Green peppercorns are also pickled in brine or vinegar.
Black peppercorns are the result of drying green peppercorns on mats in the sun for a week, or until they wrinkle and turn black in color. Some of the mature, red peppercorns separated from green peppercorns are destined to become white peppercorns, which are simply husked red peppercorns. This is achieved by keeping the peppercorns under running water for several days to encourage rotting of the outer husk, which is then easily removed by rubbing the fruit between the hands.
Pepper is one of the oldest known spices in the world and remains the spice most in demand today. The plant gets its name from “pippali,” the Sanskrit word for “berry.” Originally, this name was a reference to P. longum, the Indian long pepper known to the ancient Greeks and Romans that is now somewhat rare. The Romans, who were the first to realize the value of pepper as a commodity and the potential monsoon winds represented to facilitate transport across the Arabian Sea, constructed enormous storage facilities to amass the spice and transformed Alexandria into a major trading port between Europe and Asia, even naming the entrance to city “Pepper Gate.” Unfortunately for the Romans, this route was a two-way channel and when the Goths and the Huns entered and took Rome under siege in the 5th century, King Alaric I and Attila the Hun demanded a ransom that included 3,000 pounds of peppercorns each. Although it was promptly paid, the city was pillaged by the invaders anyway, an event marked as the fall of Rome. The interesting thing to note is that the marauders considered the peppercorns more valuable than other items contained in their respective ransom demands, surpassing even gold.
During the Middle Ages, pepper was often treated as currency. It was not uncommon to regard a stash of peppercorns equivalent to or part of a dowry or inheritance. It was even permissible to pay taxes or rent in peppercorns. These practices gave rise to the expressions “peppercorn rent” and “peperduur,” which translates to “pepper expensive” in Dutch.
In 12th century Europe, various pepper organizations were formed, such as the Pfeffersache and poivriers societies in Germany and France, respectively, and London’s Guild of Peppers. Some speculate that a considerable factor that drove the demand and price of the spice at the time was its use in masking the unpleasant aroma and taste of meat on the verge of decay. However, some historians consider the use of pepper as a food preservative not only ineffective but also unlikely – at least by the peasantry because the spice was so expensive. In fact, salt was a more effective and more likely preservative, evidenced by the popularity of salt-cured meats. The association between salt and pepper in terms of food preservation may also explain their “marriage” as longtime table partners to this day. Still, there is no question that a demand for pepper by those that could afford it clearly existed and, because this demand also made peppercorns scarce, the push to send ships east in search of more rewarded explorers such as Drake, Magellan, Columbus, and Marco Polo with vast fortunes and a place of honor in the history of the spice trade.
Like many herbs and spices, black pepper is referenced in ancient literature, one of the oldest examples of which is found in a Sanskrit writing dating to 1000 BCE. Pliny the Elder illustrates the inflated value of pepper in ancient Rome in his compilation, Natural History: “Long pepper ... is fifteen denarii per pound, while that of white pepper is seven, and of black, four" and "…there is no year in which India does not drain the Roman Empire of fifty million sesterces." Saint Aldhelm, the first Bishop of Sherborne, described the use of pepper by the elite class in his native England in this 7th century riddle, which seems to emulate Pliny’s assertion that the spice has little value beyond making men richer:
I am black on the outside, clad in a wrinkled cover, Yet within I bear a burning marrow. I season delicacies, the banquets of kings, and the luxuries of the table, Both the sauces and the tenderized meats of the kitchen. But you will find in me no quality of any worth, Unless your bowels have been rattled by my gleaming marrow.
Hindu colonists probably share responsibility for the spread of pepper throughout the Far East, a journey that began on the Malabar coast of India toward what is now Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore. Marco Polo reputedly witnessed the import of pepper into China in amounts that far exceeded the volume coming into Europe in the 13th century. Although these reports are given mention in a compilation titled, “Livre des merveilles de Marco Polo,” they cannot be substantiated because there are various versions of the hand-copied manuscript that may discredit each other.
Pepper is listed as one of the few medicines a Buddhist monk is allowed to possess in the “Samaññaphala Sutta” (The Fruit of Contemplative Life Discourse), the second of the 34 Digha Nikaya discourses. Like many other botanicals, black pepper has a long history of use in Ayurveda, India’s traditional system of healing. For centuries, the spice has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including heart disease, insomnia, tooth decay, arthritis, liver complaints, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea. The biological effects produced by black pepper is believed to be owing to a compound called piperine, which is also thought to trigger a bout of sneezing if the spice is inhaled. The 19th century English author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), gives a young girl who fell down a rabbit hole expression to this phenomenon in the classic tale of “Alice in Wonderland”: “There's certainly too much pepper in that soup! Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.”
Piper nigrum, Schinus terebinthifolius