Pepper in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Pepper is the dried berry of Piper nigrum. This vine can grow up to ten feet tall and is indigenous to India and Asia. Pepper is actually berries that are picked about nine months after flowering. (This is true pepper, and should not be confused with paprika, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, red pepper, and bell pepper, which are fruits from the capiscum family.)
Pepper is a universal table condiment used to flavour all types of dishes in cuisines worldwide. It's commonly used in stocks, pickling, and sausages.
Black Pepper has a sharp, pungent aroma and flavour. White Pepper is hotter, less subtle and mildly fermented. Green Peppercorn is milder in flavour and has a fresh taste.
Pepper plants have also grown in Indonesia and Malaysia for centuries. In the 20th century, pepper production was started in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, and Brazil. Today, India and Indonesia are the world's pepper powerhouses.
Anyone who likes preparing a good meal has undoubtedly had the experience of enthusiastically shaking or grinding the pepper-mill over a pot only to find themselves in a sneezing fit moments later. Pepper contains an alkaloid of pyridine called piperine. Piperine irritates the nerve endings inside the nose, triggering a sneeze. The sneeze is a natural reaction to the irritant in pepper, meant to clear it from the nasal passages. At the same time mucous membranes activate to help wash away the offending agent.