Pink, white, black or green? Different flavours for every colour.
As a way to accentuate and exalt flavours, pepper (Piper nigrum Linnei) possesses the amazing gift of “bringing out” the taste of even a rather bland dish. After all, we don’t call a quick-tempered or particularly sharp person “peppery” for nothing.
According the today’s FAO statistics, about 350,000 tons of pepper is bought and sold each year, making up about a quarter of the world’s entire spice trade. 45% of the world’s production comes from India, while the rest is grown in countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The market is governed by regulations and norms similar to that of the stock market, and is principally managed by a few big traders.
It’s medicinal virtues have been and continue to be recognized and appreciated by all the world’s cultures: it’s used as an digestive, a painkiller, an analgesic and even an aphrodisiac. Thanks to its high phenol content, pepper helps to stimulate the circulation of blood and is an effective anti-oxidant. There are four main types of pepper that are commercially available:
GREEN PEPPER: is obtained by harvesting the sour berries when they are still green. Its flavour is soft and not too spicy, with a fresh, slightly fruity taste.
BLACK PEPPER: comes from picking the berries when they are at mid-ripeness, still red, and then left out to dry in the sun after which they turn black. The grains of black pepper are spicy and quite aromatic.
WHITE PEPPER: its berries are picked when they are red and completely ripe, then they are immersed in salt water until the outer film of the grains flakes off, revealing the white interior. After this, it is put in the sun to dry.
PINK PEPPER: the berries of pink pepper belong to a different species than the preceding varieties. It’s actually derived from a South American plant from the Anacardiaceae family. Pink pepper has dehydrated berries with a delicate, aromatic flavor and is mildly spicy.
Whatever country your pepper comes from and in whichever shade you prefer it, there are two fundamental rules that every foodie should know: pepper is always added after cooking, and it should be ground immediately before eating.