Silly Food Fact
At one time, pepper was used as money. Yes, in medieval times, a pound of pepper equaled a pound of gold! In fact, pepper was so valuable that dishonest traders mixed in juniper berries or ground charcoal to secretly “stretch” their pepper. Black pepper is ground from peppercorns, which today are (by monetary value) the most traded spice in the world.
Wow! Check out the different peppercorn varieties here! We’re sure you’ll uncover some healthy recipes using these!
Why Our Bodies Love It
We all know that too much salt can be bad, but this doesn’t apply to pepper. It has some great health benefits! Pungent black pepper stimulates taste bud secretions, which tell the stomach to increase its own digestive juices. This aids food digestion, helping with heartburn and other poor digestive functions. Black pepper contains antioxidant properties, and historically it was even used in skin ointments.
Care and Picking
Peppercorn plants primarily grow in Southeast Asia, where the air is hot and humid. The towering vines have aerial roots that often wrap around tree trunks. Small white flowers ripen into berry clusters that are harvested, dried, and ground into pepper. It is possible to grow your own peppercorn plant, especially if you live in a warm climate: plant a seedling in a container with rich soil, and keep it in a warm (75-85F) environment. Patience is required—it may take a couple of years for a young plant to flower.
Tips and Warnings
When purchasing black pepper, you have choices: ground, coarsely-ground, cracked, and whole peppercorns. For maximum freshness and flavor, select the peppercorns. Simply grind the peppercorns right before using. Ground pepper starts losing flavor after 4 months and can become bitter; peppercorns can last several years. In both cases, air-tight storage without light is helpful.