Black Pepper, the ‘King of Spices’ – Diners’ Ubiquitous Companion on the Dining Table


Mangalore: After nearly three months of vacation in Las Vegas, USA where I had gone to see my family members including my dearest granddaughters, I am finally back here in my hometown, Mangalore- the first thing I did was, took a walk through my garden just to check on the various fruit and vegetable plants that I had grown. Many of the plants were half dead, thanks to my brother Alfie who was suppose to water the plants, but never did -probably he might have been partying too much, instead of watering the plants, he might have “watered” himself ? You know what I mean-but that’s okay, I still love my “tiny” brother.

Nice to see that the mango trees are blooming with flowers, showing signs that golden ripe mangoes are on their way. Pineapple plants also show tiny fruits protruding from the top, guava trees are filled with guava fruits, banana trees have bunch of bananas, papaya trees are yet to show any signs of fruits, coconuts tree are doing good, lots of tiny jack-fruits have already adorned the jack-fruit trees, chikku (sapota) trees are not doing so good and so on-other than that it seems like a joyful and healthy green family out there. With the black pepper vine producing large quantity of seeds this time, I thought I would rather do an article on”Black Pepper” first, while keeping my article on pineapple pending for next time.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. Peppercorns, and the ground pepper derived from them, may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (unripe fruit seeds).

Black pepper is native to south India, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity for both its flavor and as a medicine. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice. It is one of the most common spices added to European cuisine and its descendants. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine, not to be confused with the capsaicin that gives fleshy peppers theirs. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning, and is often paired with salt.

Black pepper is such a common pantry item these days, it may be hard to believe it was once so valuable that it was used as currency. We take it for granted, but the vast majority of savory recipes include some form of black pepper as an ingredient. Pepper is ranked the third most added ingredient to recipes, with water and salt leading the race. To get basic ground black pepper, one must begin with whole peppercorns, not as commonly used nowadays, but definitely a culinary experience extraordinaire.

Today, pepper, known as the King of Spices and the Master Spice, still accounts for one-fourth of the world’s spice trade. Although always prized as a flavor-enhancing spice, the peppercorn first gained fame for medicinal purposes as a digestive stimulant and expectorant. Its hot and pungent flavor causes the membranes inside the nose and throat to exude a lubricating secretion, helpful to those in respiratory distress as an aid to cough up offending phlegm and mucus. Pepper was also used in an external ointment to relieve skin afflictions and hives.

Black pepper is also an effective deterrent to insects. A solution of one-half teaspoon freshly ground pepper to one quart of warm water sprayed on plants can be toxic to ants, potato bugs, silverfish, and even roaches and moths. A sprinkling of ground pepper will also deter insect paths in non-garden areas.

Black Pepper has been in existence for more than 4,000 years. Today, we casually buy it and use it as a spice for our omelets, salads, soups, steaks and more. In ancient times, Black Pepper was so highly treasured that it was used as money. Salt and Black Pepper seem to go hand-in-hand when it comes to seasoning our foods. However, many people steer clear of salt because, too much of it and it makes your water retain water. One of the amazing health benefits of Black Pepper is, it actually does the opposite. This spice acts as a diuretic. It also encourages our bodies to sweat and get rid of harmful toxins.
According to a Health Journal, Black Pepper actually contains sodium. But, it’s a minuscule amount. There are about 10 milligrams of sodium in 100 grams of Black Pepper. If you’re wondering how much Black Pepper that is, it’s enough to sprinkle your morning eggs every day for 7 years. Although over-the-counter medications are popular these days because people are constantly plagued with indigestion after they eat. One of the amazing health benefits of Black Pepper is, it actually aids your digestion. When you eat Black Pepper, your taste buds become stimulated. They send signals to your stomach telling it to increase its production of hydrochloric acid. This acid helps your body digest food so you don’t suffer from indigestion.
Black Pepper can also help prevent the formation of intestinal gas and reduce stomach upset. For people who suffer from mild Anorexia, Black Pepper can also help them regain their appetite because it stimulates their taste buds. Are you suffering from a chest cold? Add Black Pepper to your diet, and this spice will help break-up the congestion, especially if you add it to a strong, steaming hot cup of mint tea.
Another amazing health benefit of Black Pepper is, that it’s a handy spice to have in the kitchen for when you cut yourself. The next time you have a minor cut, sprinkle Black Pepper on it. It will help stop the bleeding. Plus, it’s antibacterial properties will promote healing and kill germs.
Black pepper has demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects–yet another way in which this wonderful seasoning promotes the health of the digestive tract. And not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.

About Author :

Joe D’Souza, who had worked as a electrical engineer in Chicago Suburbs, USA for nearly 35 years is presently enjoying his retired life in Mangalore. His hobbies are writing, reading, music, and especially gardening and cultivation. He is a “Jack of all Trades” and is always ready to help anyone having any problems with their plumbing, electrical, building, landscape etc problems-and that’s how he spends his happy retired life. He has planted various fruit plants like Mango, pineapple, coconut, banana, guava, jackfruit, papaya, etc in his property, so look forward for his articles on these tropical fruits.

by Joe D’Souza, Mangalore ( with inputs from Wikipedia and Health Journal)

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Author: Joe DSouza- Mangalore