Where Does Black Pepper Come From?
Salt and Pepper. If you were to walk into almost any kitchen in America you are going to find these two staples.
Some of our most popular recipes across the culinary map use this dynamic duo. Classic recipes for Italian marinara sauce call for ground black pepper and salt. Authentic vindaloo in India uses the same. Fufu in Africa, Mexican pozole, and pierogis in Poland all traditionally use these two kitchen pantry essentials.
Salt and ground pepper are used universally. How did this happen?
Salt and pepper were once considered luxury items.They both have a long history of trade. Only the rich and highest status members of society were able to put salt and pepper at their tables.
With the growth of infrastructure and industrialization the price and status of salt and pepper has declined. Salt is found and harvested on almost every continent in the modern world both on water and land.
What makes pepper special is location. Location is everything, or in salt's case everywhere. So....
Have you ever wondered, where does pepper come from?
Despite how common pepper is around the globe it actually finds its origins in a small area of India. Although pepper's counterpart salt is almost everywhere, pepper was a scarce item for early chefs.
Evidence exists of pepper's popularity and export as far back as 1000 BC. The limited access and high price tag of this spice made it a highly sought after item for many European Empires. Creating spice routes to attain the coveted pepper plant is seen by some scholars as an agitator in the Age of Exploration.
We have made quite a bit of progress since the origins of this spice and scarcity is no longer an issue. What was once considered a luxury in European homes is now considered a staple in pantries everywhere. Now pepper can be grown in tropical conditions beyond that of its original home in India.
Yea but how is black pepper made?
Well peppercorn is a seed. A seed from a very non-fruitful fruit. The thin skin and pulp of the piper nigrum plant are boiled and dried. All that remains is the tiny brown wrinkled ball we are familiar with, the peppercorn.
Peppercorn, cracked black pepper, and ground black pepper are all varieties of this dried seed.
Okay. But what about White vs. Black Peppercorn, what is the difference?
The difference is in the process.
Black, white, red, and green peppercorns are all a product of the same plant. The difference comes from ripeness and preparation.
Both black and green peppercorns are the result of the fruit being plucked before it has ripened. In this case the fruit is still green when it is harvested. Whether or not they are cooked before being dried is the reason for the color variance.
Red ripe fruits being harvested result in the red and white peppercorn variety.
From ancient luxury to modern pantry staple, black pepper is one spice that our kitchen's cannot do without. Try out a peppercorn grinder for a fresh finish on all of your favorite foods.