Black Pepper

Black Pepper - Schwarzer Pfeffer
Black Pepper - Schwarzer Pfeffer

A member of the pepper family of plants is the pepper shrub (Piper nigrum), usually known as black pepper or pepper for short (Piperaceae). Due to the presence of the alkaloid piperine in the fruits, which are also known as pepper or peppercorns, they are used as a spicy condiment. It is also known as real pepper to set it apart from comparable spices.

Black pepper does not usually produce black fruits. The peppercorns come in a variety of colors, including green pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and red pepper, depending on the time of harvest and subsequent processing.


The pepper plant is a woody, perennial climber that ascends trees and reaches a maximum height of around 10 meters. The plant is typically maintained in cultivation at a height of 3 to 4 meters. The ovate to cordate, simple, alternating, glabrous, petiolate, leathery stem leaves have whole edges and are acute to acuminate. The underside glandular leaves are 10–20 centimeters, and the petiole can be up to 5 cm long. The major veins have a forward arch and have palmate venation.

The pepper plant is pre-female, or protogynous. The many-flowered, thick, 10-15 centimeter long, pendulous as well as leaf-opposite spikes with 50 to 150 individual blooms bear the little, inconspicuous flowers without perianth, the majority of which (up to 90%) are hermaphrodite in cultivated pepper, unlike in wild variants. Each bloom is fastened to a bract. The superior ovary is globose, unicompartmented, and has tiny, stalkless stigma branches. 2-4 short stamens are present.

After fertilization, ripe drupes (small, spherical, red, one-seeded fruits) grow to a maximum size of 5–6 millimeters in an average of 8–9 months. A pepper plant can produce pepper twice a year, and it can produce pepper for up to 30 years.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 52, infrequently 26, 78, 53, 54, 65, or around 104.


India, more specifically the Malabar Coast, which grew prosperous as a result of Indian trade, is where this plant originated. About 1000 years ago, pepper crop made its way to what are today Indonesia and Malaysia as Indian culture spread throughout Southeast Asia.

Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Brazil, and Malaysia are the top countries for pepper production. There are significant annual changes, but it appears that between 200,000 and 360,000 tons of pepper are produced worldwide each year. The annual worth of pepper output worldwide is put between 300 and 600 million US dollars.

The Spice

Pepper’s major significance today is as a spice.

Definitions and extraction

Cambodian red pepper, the real deal (dried fruit)
The immature, early-harvested fruits used to make green pepper are. It’s different from black pepper in that it’s either just pickedled in salt water right away, dried immediately, or freeze-dried at high temperatures. As a result, it still has its natural green hue. Air freight has made fresh green pepper broadly available recently.

Black pepper can also be made from Piper nigrum fruits that are still green and unripe, but have crumpled and turned black due to drying.

Only the stone core of completely ripe peppers are known as white pepper (Latin: Piper album). To make it, the ripe red pepper berries are either fermented under cover for approximately three days or steeped in water for about eight days, allowing the pulp to separate. The stone core is the only thing left after they are mechanically peeled; it is then dried and somewhat bleached in the sun. Pectinases can be used to cut the somewhat lengthy soaking procedure.

But you can also peel black pepper or fruits that aren’t quite ripe. After that, they can be handled appropriately to produce a similar white pepper.

Red pepper is typically pickled in salty or sour sheets, much like green pepper, and is made up of fully ripe, unpeeled pepper fruits. In contrast to green pepper, pickled red pepper is less common. The actual red pepper in dried form is even more difficult to come by.

In addition to being used in advertisements, pepper is occasionally sold under labels that hint to its place of origin and subtle flavor variations. Sarawak pepper, also known as Borneo pepper, is believed to have originated in Borneo’s northernmost Malaysian state of Sarawak. Originally from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lampong pepper (see Lampung province in Sumatra).


Ancient times

Indian pepper was imported via one of the ancient Roman trading routes across the sea.
Hippocrates has the earliest known reference to pepper in antiquity. Before it became commonplace to send products from Asia to Europe, pepper had to be delivered there by land from its only important cultivation region at the time, southwest India. It was the perfect long-distance trade good due to its robustness and pungency. In antiquity, pepper was already the most popular spice traded between Asia and Europe (India trade). Through the Red Sea, it was brought by ship and caravan to the Mediterranean and the Roman Empire.

Middle Ages

The oldest spice discovered north of the Alps is a peppercorn from Bremen that dates to the beginning of the 13th century.

Pepper was a valuable resource. Merchants who, among other things, owed their wealth to pepper were known as pepper sacks. Although it was a luxury, pepper became important since it allowed food to be kept for a long period.

Additionally, pepper was also regarded as a treatment and utilized in a variety of medicinal forms, such as three-pepper latwerge (medieval pharmacy recognized the “varieties” of pepper and white pepper and long pepper) (“dia-trion pipereon” or diatrionpiperon).

The Middle Ages saw the monopolization of the spice trade with India by the Turks and Arabs, followed by Venice, who carefully oversaw it. One of the reasons Marco Polo attempted to lead his own European caravan to Asia was the priceless spices. The “sea route to India” was discovered by Portuguese explorers towards the end of the 15th century, and the Portuguese India Armadas later sailed it. The Age of Discovery was inaugurated by it together with the discovery of America. Vasco da Gama initially succeeded in transporting a shipment of pepper from India to Europe in 1498. After America was discovered, bell pepper in Asia lost some of its value as a commodity because chile, a spicy bell pepper, took its place as an essential hot spice in many Asian dishes.

Beginning of the modern era

From the early to late Middle Ages, pepper was also grown in Southeast Asia, initially in Thailand and then mostly in Indonesia (“Spice Islands”). Mostly the Chinese and domestic markets were supplied from there. Pepper did not arrive in substantial amounts in Europe from that region until the 17th century, initially via Dutch commercial firms. Various violent confrontations, especially those involving the Netherlands and other European maritime powers, included the Southeast Asian spice trade.

The adage “Go where the pepper grows!” is used to send somebody you don’t get along with to a very remote location where you won’t likely see them again. – Another version links the proverb to the French Guiana penal colonies (capital: Cayenne). The cultivation of peppers was another industry in the nation. Going to this penal colony would be suggested by the proverb “Go where the pepper grows.” Alfred Dreyfus, who was detained in French Guiana from 1895 to 1899 on Devil’s Island (Île du Diable), was the most well-known prisoner there.


Piperine structural formula

The pungency of pepper is determined by the alkaloid piperine (5-8%) and derivatives of piperine, including piperettine, piperyline, piperanine, chavicine (an isomeric compound of piperine), and others in different compositions. Yellow crystals of piperine are produced by crystallizing an alcoholic pepper extract. In 1819, rsted was the first to isolate it.

The so-called pepper oil, which gives white, green, and black pepper their distinctive aroma, is present in white pepper in amounts of roughly 2.5 percent and up to 4.8 percent, respectively. The process of steam distilling pepper yields the pepper oil. Monoterpenes, including pinenes, 3-carene, terpinene, terpinolene, and limonene, and sesquiterpenes, including – and -caryophyllene and -farnesene, make up the majority of the essential oil. In addition, pepper oil contains oxidized terpenes including terpinen-4-ol.

After terpenes and piperine are separated via steam distillation and crystallization, the so-called pepper resin is produced. It comprises compounds referred to as piperoleins together. Although they contain longer hydrocarbon chains with a double bond and a propensity to resinify, they are comparable to piperine.

About 50% starch, 5%–6% fatty oil, and the flavonoids (and glycosides of) kaempferol, rhamnetin, and quercetin are also significant components of black pepper.

Black pepper as a botanical medicine

The dried, unpeeled, fully grown but still green fruits are used as medication. They are dried in the heat and turn dark after being treated with boiling water.

Acid amides with strong flavors, particularly piperine, and essential oils containing limonene, sabinene, caryophyllene, and safrole are the active components.

Application: The stimulation of heat and pain receptors is what gives pepper its acrid, burning flavor. Reflectively, the secretion of gastric juice, saliva, and digestion enzymes are all stimulated. Because of this, pepper has an obvious appetite-stimulating and digestive impact. However, other than in tonics, pepper is rarely employed in European medicine.