Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is a plant of the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruits, which are then dried in order to be used as a spice. The same result through different processing methods, is used to produce white pepper, black pepper and green pepper.It is a herbal plant.
The plant is native of southern India and is extensively cultivated in India and in tropical countries. The ripe fruit looks like a dark red berries, has a diameter of about five millimeters and contains a single seed. The pepper is one of the most common spices in European cuisine and its derivatives are known and appreciated since ancient times both for their taste for their use in Ayurvedic medicine. Its spicy flavor is given by piperine.
The word pepper is derived from the Sanskrit Pippali. The word is transformed into the Latin piper and Old English pipor. The Latin word is also the root of the German Pfeffer, French poivre, Dutch peper, and other similar conditions.
The pepper tree is a perennial tree that reaches four feet high. Its leaves, alternate, leathery, oval, are long by five to ten centimeters wide and three to six. The flowers are small and bloom on a drooping stalk, about eight centimeters long, linked to the insertion of the leaves. The inflorescences bear flowers sessile, perianth to zero, which may be unisexual or hermaphroditic. The fruit is a drupe containing a single seed, approximately 5 mm in diameter, the first green, then red when ripe. The stem reaches the length of seven to fifteen centimeters when the fruits are ripe. The pepper tree is growing in soil not too dry or flooded then moist soil, well fertilized with organic materials.
The plants are propagated by cuttings of about 50 cm clinging to nearby trees or ledges to climb the walls. Promote this action from the trees trunk wrinkled. Plants do not have to be very thick but that promote the shade and allow ventilation. The roots are covered with litter and shoots should be pruned twice a year. On dry soils the plants should be watered every two days for the first three years, in warm weather. The plants produce fruits from the fourth / fifth year and continue to bear fruit for about seven years.
The varieties are selected for fruit quality and their longevity.
A single branch produces an average of 20 to 30 buds. The harvest starts in just one or two berries at the base of the stalk and turn red before the fruit to mature. The fruits that remain on the tree fall on their own and are lost to the harvest. The harvested berries are put in the sun for drying and are then shelled to extract the fruit.
Varieties of pepper and spices erroneously linked to it
· Black pepper is produced from the unripe fruit of the pepper plant. The fruits are blanched briefly in hot water for washing and preparing them for drying. The rupture of the pulp during drying, it speeds up the blackening of the peppercorn. The grains are dried in the sun, or kilns for several days during which the fruit will dry out and blacken. Once dried take the name of black pepper. Black pepper is often referred to by the place of production: India, Malabar, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries.
· White pepper is given by the single seed of the fruit. Is obtained by keeping in water for about a week the fruit of the pepper. In this way the meat decomposes and can easily be eliminated. Pricarpo removed, the seed is dried. Alternative processes are used to remove the pulp from the fruit, including the removal of skin from the dried black pepper.
Black pepper is the most common, while white pepper is mainly used in the preparation of colored sauces, where black pulp remain visible.
· Green pepper, like black, is made from unripe fruit. In the drying process is treated with sulfur dioxide to preserve the green color of the fruit.
The green pepper in brine is a green pepper preserved in brine or vinegar. The cuisine of Southeast Asia and especially in Thai cuisine, is commonly used pepper green beans just picked from the plant.
· Pepper gray with this name will refer to two different products:
I. a mixture of white pepper and finely ground black pepper.
II. cubeba the berries of the plant Piper cubeba.
· Pink pepper or fake Peruvian pepper berry, pink variety, similar to that of pepper, a tree of the genus Schinus.
· Long pepper berries of the plant Piper longum, very similar in taste to black pepper, but elongated.
· Creole, a mixture of white pepper, black pepper, green pepper, red pepper and allspice.
· Pepper, cloves: it is the allspice, pepper spice erroneously associated by its name (which just means pepper in Spanish).
· Sichuan Pepper: Berries of an Asian plant of the genus Zanthoxylum.
Pepper has been used as a spice in India since prehistoric times. It has been cultivated for the first time, most likely along the coasts of Malabar in India, currently corresponding to the state of Kerala.
The pepper was a precious commodity and it was often called black gold, and used as a bargaining chip.
The history of black pepper is often intertwined and confused with long pepper. The ancient Romans knew both the fruits that often confused and equated to one another. Discovering the Americas, and then the chile pepper, long pepper began to decline to extinction. The chile pepper, which is similar in shape and taste to the long pepper, were easier to grow and is located in an area that made it easier to transport. Until well after the Middle Ages around the black pepper that was in Europe, Middle East and North Africa came from the Malabar region of India. From the sixteenth century, pepper was also imported from Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia. These were traded mainly with China or used it for domestic consumption. Black pepper, along with other spices produced in India and countries in Southeast Asia, has changed the history of the world. Was due to the precious spice obstinate research by European states, the route to the Indies and the subsequent colonization of this country, as had happened before with the American continent.
The Ancient Pepper
A grain of black pepper was found in the nostril of the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramesses II died in 1212 BC Little is known about the use of pepper in ancient Egypt as we know it could reach the banks of the Nile from India. Pepper, black and long pepper, were known in Greece before the fourth century BC, as a kind very common and very expensive that only the rich could buy. The routes were then certainly by land or by sea along the Arabian Sea. The long pepper that grew in the north-west of India was less expensive than black pepper. This fact benefitted most of the first trade at the expense of black pepper. From the time of the Roman Empire, especially after the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 AD, the crossing of the Indian Ocean to the shores of Malabar was quite common. Details of this trade route through the Indian Ocean have been handed down by the Periplus Maris erythraea. According to the Roman historian Strabo, the first emperor sent a fleet of 120 ships for an annual trip to India and back. The fleet programmed the journey across the Arabian Sea to take advantage of the monsoons that blow in that area in a few months of the year.
On the return trip, the ships crossed the Red Sea, from the shores of which were transported by land and sailed for the channel of the Nile to the River Nile and from there by barge to Alexandria. From there went to Rome. This trade route from India to Europe will dominate the trade of pepper for the next 1500 years to come. The ships leave from the Malabar coast, black pepper now walk a shorter route than long pepper, and then its price became more affordable. Pliny the Elder's Natural History tells us the prices in Rome around 77 AD: The long pepper cost 45 denarii per kilogram while the white pepper at 18 denarii and the money only 9 black pepper. Pliny complained "there is no year in which India does not drains 50 million sesterces to the Roman Empire" and other moralists on pepper:
"It is surprising that the use of pepper has become so popular, seeing that other substances that we use is the sweetness or their appearance that has attracted our attention, the pepper has nothing to do if it can plead as a recommendation other fruit, being the only quality a certain piquancy, and that is why now we import from India! Who was the first that made it a kind of food? And who, to my surprise, was not content to prepare himself for a meal that would serve only to satisfy a strong appetite? "
Black pepper was well known and widespread in the Roman Empire, although it was very expensive. Apicius in De re coquinaria, a cookbook of the third century, based at least in part on one of the first century, put the pepper in most recipes. Edward Gibbon wrote in his book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that pepper was "the favorite ingredient in the most exclusive Roman cuisine."
The post-classical Europe pepper
Pepper had such a high price to be often used as exchange value in the financial markets and often even as currency. The taste of pepper (or appreciation of its monetary value), increased the appetite of those who wanted the fall of Rome. It is said that Attila the Hun and Alaric the Visigoth demanded for the salvation of Rome a ransom of more than a ton of pepper when they besieged the city in the fifth century. After the fall of Rome before the Byzantines and then the Arabs took control of the pepper trade. At the end of the early Middle Ages traffic control of the pepper was firmly in the hands of Islamists. At one time in the Mediterranean Sea trade was monopolized by some Italian states such as the Venetian Republic and the Republic of Genoa. The development of these city-states was due largely to the trade of pepper.
It is common belief that in the Middle Ages, pepper was used to improve the taste of partially rotten meat, there is no evidence to support this rumor, and historians consider this highly unlikely. In the Middle Ages, pepper was a luxury that could only be bought by wealthy people and did not need these tricks they can buy fresh meat.
Others argue that the pepper was added to wine or beer gone bad in order to improve the taste, but in this case is regarded as above. Equally inaccurate is the belief that pepper was widely used as antibacterial, although it is true that piperine, the substance that gives pepper its spiciness, has some antimicrobial properties, it is equally true that the concentration used for the spiciness of the food had a very little therapeutic effect.
Its exorbitant price during the Middle Ages and the trade monopoly held by the Italian maritime republics, was one of the reasons that led Portugal to find a sea route to India. In 1498 Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea. In Calcutta, the Arab asked him why he had come and he said "we Christians and spices". Although this first trip to India, via the Cape of Good Hope, was a modest success, the Portuguese soon returned in large numbers and using their superior naval power gained complete control of the spice trade in the Indian Ocean. This was the beginning of the first European empire in Asia that had greater legitimacy (at least from a European perspective) that guaranteed by the Treaty of Tordesillas with Portugal exclusive rights to half of world trade of pepper.
The Portuguese, however, were not able to maintain their supremacy in the long traffic pepper. The old network of Arabs and Venetians successfully smuggled enormous quantities of pepper avoiding poor supervision Portuguese. Once again, huge quantities of pepper reached Alexandria and Italy.
In the seventeenth century the Portuguese ceded almost all their possessions in the Indian Ocean in the Dutch and English. The port of Malabar fell into the hands of workers between 1661 and 1663.
Because of inflation, the price of pepper declined very rapidly. This spice in the Middle Ages was the prerogative of the wealthy, became so widespread that it can be used daily by almost everyone.
Pepper in China
It is possible that the pepper was known in China as early as the second century BC, when the news reported by an explorer named Tang Meng (唐蒙) is correct. Posted by Emperor Wu Han Chinese in the region that is now the south-west China, Tang Meng said he came across something called betel jujiang or sauce. He said to come from the market of Shu, the present Chinese province of Sikiang.
The point of view of historians is that the sauce is a sauce made from betel leaves, betel, but some reasonable arguments suggest that this is pepper. In the third century AD, the pepper appears for the first time in a safe in Chinese texts as hujiao pepper or foreign.
Marco Polo witnessed the popularity of pepper in China in the thirteenth century, when its consumption in relation to Kinsay city (Zhejiang): ... Messer Marco heard from one of the officers of the customs of the Great Khan that the quantity of pepper introduced daily in the city amounted to about 4,100 kilograms.
Marco Polo is not considered a very credible witness with regard to China, with its second-hand news, but if his testimony was the real import of pepper from China would exceed that of the whole of Europe.
Pepper as a Medicine
Like all eastern spices, pepper is a seasoning that is in the history of medicine. Black pepper figure in remedies in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani in India. The Book of the fifth century Syrian medicine prescribes pepper for the following diseases: constipation, diarrhea, earache, gangrene, heart disease, hernia, indigestion, insect bites, insomnia, liver problems, oral abscesses, and more.
Various sources from the fifth century onwards, recommend the use of pepper in eye problems by applying salves or poultices made with pepper directly on the eye.
There is no finding that these medical treatments could bring no benefit. Pepper applied on the eyes would be very annoying and would make sure of organ damage.
The pepper is excluded from the diet of patients with ulcer in the abdomen or abdominal surgery under way to his irritation.
Flavors and Aromas
Pepper gets its spicy almost completely from piperine, a substance found in both pulp and seed.
Piperine is refined spicy about one per cent of the contained capsaicin in chillies. The pulp, left in black pepper, also contains important flavorings such as terpene, pinene, sabinene, limonene, caryophyllene, and linalool, which give flavor of lemon, wood and flowers. These scents are very low in white pepper because it is completely devoid of the pulp. White pepper can contain other flavors (including the smell of stale) due to the long fermentation.
Pepper loses flavor and aroma through evaporation, thus keeping the vacuum helps to maintain longer the original fragrance of the spices. Pepper loses flavor when exposed to light, due to the conversion of piperine.
The pepper quickly loses its flavor, so many recipes recommended to grind the pepper right now. Pepper manuals are used for grinding the spice is a table in the kitchen. Mills were found in European kitchens as early as the fourteenth century, but the mortar and pestle used earlier were still in use for centuries.
Pepper represents, in monetary value, 20% of the spice trade in the world (2002). Pepper price is very volatile and fluctuates from year to year. For example, in 1998 the value of the pepper accounts for 39% of all spices traded. The world market for pepper is in Kochi, India. Vietnam has recently become the world's largest producer of pepper. The world's largest manufacturers are: Vietnam (85,000 tonnes.), Indonesia (67,000 tons.), India (65,000 tons.), Brazil (35,000 tons.), Malaysia (22,000 tons.) Sri Lanka (12,750 tons.), Thailand and China. Vietnam dominates the world export market by selling almost all of its production.
Language of flowers and plants
The pepper has a precise meaning in the language of flowers and plants: a person "whole pepper" is a lively person, a person who is not "no salt, no pepper" Having these two things, a strong taste and determined, means "to be insignificant ".
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