Etymology and Origin:
Black Peppercorn or Kali Mirch is the spice obtained by drying the fruit from a flowering vine which belongs to the Piperaceae family of plants. The plant is a native to the southern part of the Indian Peninsula and is known to thrive in tropical climate.
The word pepper finds its roots in Tamil from where it was assimilated into Latin and Greek and finally English.
Classification of Pepper:
What we know as black peppercorn is the dried and cooked unripe fruit of the plant. The dried unripe fruit which is not cooked retains its green color and so is called green pepper. White pepper is the seeds from the ripe fruit.
Otherwise wild Pepper which grow in the tropical forest of the western ghats are known for their superior quality . They find mention in the journals of the Scottish physician from the 19th century, Francis Buchanan. However with the depletion of the forest resources, the availability of white pepper has become more of a rarity.
Orange pepper or red pepper is obtained by preserving the ripe fruits in a brine solution.
Pink peppercorn is the fruit obtained from a tree of different variety which is native to Peru.
Production and Commerce:
Currently Vietnam is the largest producer and exporter of the spice. The country produces more than a third of the world’s peppercorn.
Other major producers of the spice include Indonesia, India and Brazil. Although Vietnam dominates the export market by using almost none of its produce in the domestic market.
Peppercorn is among the most extensively traded spices in the world. They account for 20% of the total revenues from world spice trade.
Traditional Medication and Modern Research:
Like most of the spices to come from the east, black peppercorn is used both as a condiment as well as traditional remedy for a number of ailments. A number of ancient medicinal practices employ the use of peppercorns in the treatment of constipation, sunburn, insomnia and general oral and dental problems.
Pepper is boosted with a number of phytochemicals which among others include amides, pyrrolidines, piperidines and also some amounts of safrole. Safrole among these has been known to inhibit cancerous growth in laboratory rodents.
Piperine is another bio-active compound found in pepper, which is known to be responsible for creating the sneezing effect. Scientific studies are in progress to determine the physiological effects of piperine. The compound is known to initiate the absorption selenium, vitamin B12 and beta carotene into the body.
Also Read: Top Health Benefits of Kokum