What would we do without black pepper?

I wonder sometimes how  an omelette  would taste without a dash of black pepper, or eating stir fried beef without black pepper sauce … life would be miserable. This pungent aromatic spice hailed all the way from the Malabar Coast in Southern India. Can you imagine what food would have tasted like in South East Asia before Peppers reached our shores?? It would have probably been bland and soupy. Pepper has been used in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans. While our current generation uses steroids and adrenaline gels for increase energy and performance, the Roman warriors were massaged in black pepper before battle to promote strength and stamina.Cool eh?
We’ve got to thank the Portugese explorer Vasco Da Gama  for opening up the sea routes for spice trade especially for Black Pepper.The Pepper culture extended from Europe to the Indonesian Archipelago back in the 16th century. Although Malabar exported pepper extensively to Europe, in the 17th century ,large quantities of pepper were imported by the Dutch and British from Java and Sumatra. 200 years later, Sumatra was the largest pepper supplier to Europe! whats very interesting here is that Sumatran Pepper was exported to Europe  via Penang! The British used Penang as a important depot for pepper supplies from Terengganu and Sumatra.
king
If I gave my landlord 600 peppercorns as rent this month, she would probably flip and kick me out but such a thing  did exist ages ago where Peppercorns were so valuable that people used peppercorns as a currency to trade. People paid rent with peppercorns hence the term peppercorn rent!
Pepper from the Piperaceae Family is a perennial woody vine where shrubs can grow up to 30 feet tall. Both white and black Pepper come from the same pepper plant, Piper Nigrum. Its flower are slender with dense spikes with about 50 blossoms each. Pepper bears berry like fruits which is produced as peppercorns.
black pepper
Now when you bite into a peppercorn…oooh! the heat! where does that come from ? The hot sensation comes from the  resin in the peppercorn called chavicine. Another heat source substance in the peppercorn is an alkaloid called piperine which is used to add to the pungent effect in Brandy.
Most of  us love pepper in our food be in adding a dash of pepper in a pumpkin soup, marinating barbeque or black pepper crabs! now which pepper type  do you prefer?
Green peppers are harvested before the peppers turn red. They are dried out in the sun for a week and a half and the green berries undergo an oxidation process and blacken to become black peppercorns. Black pepper has a sharp aroma with that signature woody taste.
White peppers are peppercorns that are stored in heaps after they have been boiled or harvested and packed in large stacks then lowered in running streams for 7-15 days. Bacteria plays a role in causing the outer layer of the peppercorn( pericarp) to break away. White peppercorns have a much milder taste compared to black pepper.
Peppers are also used in many remedies and Ayurvedic treatment in treating colic, tooth decay, liver problems, lung disease, indigestion and constipation. Its also very effective for coughs.
A simple cough remedy
Grind 3-4  black peppercorns into a fine powder.
Mix with1 tablespoon of honey
Swallow!
Best taken before going to bed.
 black pepper3
And where can you see fruiting peppers on Penang island? , right here along the spice terraces of Tropical Spice Garden! The peppers are happily fruiting! They are hard to see but they are definitely there! you can also purchase black peppercorns from our gift shop. Why not cook up a delicious meal of Black Pepper Chicken and steamed rice to complement the rainy weather these days. I might just do so this evening.



- Courtesy of The Tropical Spice Garden