One of the most famous music albums of all times dedicated its title to pepper: the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper” which came out in 1967, is no. 1 in the Rolling Stone’s classification of the best 500 albums ever produced.
Leaf The leaves of the particular Betel pepper are used for chewing in Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is even more common than tobacco leaves.
Peppercorns are small, around 5 mm in diameter, and may be black, green or white: the black and green varieties are picked when still under ripe and treated in different ways, while white peppercorns are actually the seed from inside the berry.
Do you want to know how to store pepper for as long as possible, even several years? Put it in a closed storage jar in a cool dry place, possibly away from the light.
And to avoid any dispersion of its essential oils, it is even better to keep it in the form of peppercorns and grind it each time it is needed.
In some Latin languages, the common expression “neither salt nor pepper” is used to indicate a person with a drab personality, while someone who is said to be “full of pepper” is lively and difficult to handle.
From ancient times to the middle ages, pepper was used as a trade commodity and peppercorns were a form of currency. It was often given a nominal value and considered to be as precious as gold or silk.
In early Asian medicinal texts, pepper is mentioned as a cure for all kinds of illnesses: from heart complaints to intestinal diseases, from earache to insomnia, as well as mosquito bites and boils.
Along the coasts and in the tropical forests of Malabar, the southern state now called Kerala, the pepper plant first made its appearance about 2500 years ago and from there it was imported to tropical areas all over the world where it is now grown.
In the past, juniper berries were often sold fraudulently as pepper, but today the two spices are frequently used together to add flavour to meat and fish dishes
One of the best peppers in the world, appreciated by chefs for its round, assertive and lingering taste, comes from this Malaysian town: it is called Sarawak, which is also the name of the region in Borneo from where it originates.
Piper longum is the only pepper variety to produce a fruit that is not round: as its name suggests, its berries are tapered in shape and black, with a flavour similar to that of black pepper.
In the nineteenth century at Salem, in Massachusetts, the most important pepper exchange in the world used to be held: even today the United States continue to be the greatest importer of this spice, while India is the most important exporting country.
Because of the piperine it contains, an irritant alkaloid, pepper is the substance most associated with sneezing. Piperine is also responsible for the pungency of pepper.
On the table
Salt and pepper, in their respective shakers with holes on the top, are an essential element of table setting in homes and restaurants of the Western world.
The name of pepper derives from this Sanskrit term (meaning berry), which then became Piper in Latin, a family comprising at least one thousand different varieties, among which the most common is Piper nigrum
The most famous French spice mix has 4 ingredients: black pepper, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.
Unlike other ingredients, pepper is used straight from the plant. The only ways in which it is treated are boiling, washing with water and the use of salt for storage.
This plant, which grows extensively in Perù, gives us pink peppercorns, which have nothing to do with pepper at all, apart from their resemblance to the typical berry shape and their use in cooking. Other “false” peppers are chilli pepper and Cayenne pepper.
In tropical forests, the pepper plant, which loves the shade, often grows close to tea and coffee. In fact, there are some types of tea with a particularly strong pepper flavour.
Cubeba, or Java pepper, which takes its name from this island where the plant grows, is one of the pepper varieties whose origins are unknown: Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, loved to smoke it and used to say that it had inspired his most fortunate character.
A precious source of vitamin C, pepper is used in oriental medicine to cure various pathologies; it has an important role in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.
White pepper is very popular with chefs thanks to its flavour, which is milder than that of black pepper, making it suitable for sauces, mayonnaise and soufflés. It is obtained from the seed contained in the peppercorn.
Even the Kama sutra recommends the use of pepper to enhance the sexual performance of men: in particular, black pepper, long pepper and cayenne would appear to be the most effective.
Pepper is picked from plants that closely resemble grapevines: they are frequently bound to other trees with which they become entangled, and present an aerial type of growth before producing little green fruits in bunches of 50.
This is the shrub that produces Sichuan pepper which, like its pink colleague, does not belong to the pepper family. Used in Chinese cuisine, it is less piquant and leaves a slight lemony aftertaste