Black pepper is native to the Western Ghats of Kerala State, India, where it still
occurs wild in the mountains. This area is thought to be the centre of origin for
the crop because the diversity of cultivated forms are greatest here. It has spread
from India to Southeast Asia through pepper vine cuttings brought by people migrating
from India to Indonesia and other countries.
Pepper has been one of the most ancient commodities of the spice trade. Together
with ginger, it has the longest history of export from South Asia dating back at
least 4000 years. Most ports and trading stations for black pepper were located
in Southwest India where wild populations of the plants grew. Apart from India,
black pepper is widely cultivated throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Tropical
Africa, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China.
The popular names designated to the crop, such as " King of Spices " and
" Black Gold " reveals the importance of the crop-attained world over.
Being a native of Western Ghats, pepper forms an important ingredient of several
indigenous medicines of India. The name pepper comes from the Sanskrit word “pippali”
Black pepper, Piper nigrum L. belonging to the family Piperaceae, is a perennial,
climbing vine indigenous to the Malabar Coast of India. It is a branching vine with
a smooth, woody, articulate stem swollen at the joints. As a woody climber, it may
reach heights of 10 m by means of its aerial roots. Its broad, shiny green, pointed,
petiolate leaves are alternately arranged. The sessile, white, small flowers are
borne in pendulous, dense, slender spikes of about 50 blossoms each. The berry-like
fruits, or peppercorns are round, about 0.5 - 1.0 cm in diameter and contain a single
seed. They become yellowish red at maturity and bear a single seed. The odour is
penetrating and aromatic; the taste is hot, biting and very pungent.
Black pepper is used universally in sauces, gravies, processed meats, poultry, snack
foods etc. Both black and white pepper are used in cuisine worldwide, at all stages
of the cooking process and as a table condiment. White pepper has a distinguishably
different flavour but is utilized to a lesser extent. It
is used in processed meats and in applications where dark specking is not desired.
Black pepper is added to fruitcakes and gingerbread and is also used as a light
seasoning on fresh fruit. Black pepper oleoresin is used for similar purposes.