Black Pepper

India's prominent spice

The History

Black pepper is probably the most commonly used spice in the world today, and was one of the earliest spices known. In early historic times pepper was cultivated in the tropics of Southeast Asia, where it became known as a condiment. Due to its popularization, it became a very desirable trade item wanted by the Europeans. The Indians had a massive surplus of black pepper that they could use to trade. This excess of spice prompted the search for trade routes by sea, which such great explorers as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama.

The Pepper Plant

The pepper plant is a climbing vine of the family Piperacae, and is scientifically known as piper nigrum. It is indigenous to the Malabar Coast of India, and grows throughout India and Indonesia as well as tropical areas in Africa and The Western Hemisphere. It requires a long rainy season, tropical temperatures, and partial shade if the pepper is to have the best chance of growing. After the initial planting, pepper plants first begin to bear their berrylike fruits, or peppercorns in 2 to 5 years. Some plants can bear peppercorns for as long as 40 years. The peppercorns turn yellowish red when they reach full maturity, and carry a single seed.
Pepper plant with unripe green peppercorns.

Did You Know?..

A pepper vine can reach a height of 10 meters (33 feet) in the air.

The Making of the Spice

When berries are picked they start to turn red. These peppercorns that have been picked off of the vines are then kept in boiling water for about 10 minutes. This process gives them their dark brown or black color shown in the picture below. After boiling, they are spread out to dry in the sun for two or three days. Then, the whole peppercorns are ground into very fine grains, and the ground peppercorns are the spice that we know as black pepper.
Peppercorns after being boiled and set out to dry.

Did You Know?..

Peppercorns are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. They have been used since ancient times for their anti-inflammatory and anti-flatulent properties.


"black pepper." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.
<>. Black Pepper Nutrition Facts. Pepper-Passion Black Peppercorns. May 1, 2010