Organic Black Peppercorns
Black pepper, Piper nigrum, is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, and is cultivated for its fruit. When the fruit is left on the vine to fully mature, it is approximately 2/10" in diameter, dark red in color and contains a single seed. When dried, the fruit is known as a peppercorn. Both the whole peppercorn and the ground peppercorn are frequently referred to as simply ‘pepper'.
While black pepper is certainly not the most expensive spice, it is the most widely used spice (in terms of total volume) in the world. This aromatic spice has a pungent fragrance.
Black pepper is native to the Malabar region on the Western Coast of Southern India. Black Peppercorns have long been a valuable traded good, and at one time were even used as a form of commodity money referred to as "black gold".
The history of black pepper has long been closely aligned, and often confused, with its close relative Long Pepper, (open in same window) Piper longum. While both were quite expensive, there are mentions of Greeks from the 4th century BC being fond of both. Romans of the 3rd Century BC often referred to both of them almost interchangeably as "piper".
Trade routes of the time were either by land or in ships that moved along the coastlines of the Arabian Sea. Long pepper, which grew readily in northwestern India, was more accessible than the peppercorns from the southern region of India. This trade advantage, and long pepper's superior spiciness, most likely made Long Pepper more popular at the time. It wasn't really until chile peppers were discovered in the New World that Long Pepper's popularity would decline.
It is not known how black peppercorns made their way from India to Egypt, but it is known that peppercorns where used in Egyptian mummification rituals dating back to 1213 BC. Peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II (the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt).
A collection of Roman cookery recipes, believed by food historians to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and referred to as De re coquinaria ("On the Subject of Cooking"), includes pepper in a majority of its recipes.
Pepper was so valuable that it was even used as collateral or even currency. The appreciation of pepper's value was also used by those seeking the collapse of the Roman Empire. Legend has it that both Alaric I, the first king of the Visigoths, and Attila the Hun, king of the Hunnic Empire, each held Rome hostage for a ransom of more than a ton of pepper when they, on separate occasions, besieged the city in the early 400's.
With the fall of the Roman Empire in the late 400's, the central portions of the spice trade routes were firmly under the control of first the Persians and then the Arabs. Once peppercorns made their way into the Mediterranean region, the transportation and distribution were controlled by Italians from Genoa and Venice.
Today, Peppercorns are grown in Brazil, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Vietnam is currently the world's largest producer of commercially grown peppercorns and supplies between 45%-55% of the market.
Depending on the time of year and that season's harvests, our organic black peppercorns are sourced from Brazil, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
We carry a full selection of delicious conventional "peppercorns" to choose from – black, green, white, pink and Szechuan. Black, green and white peppercorns all come from the same plant.
Black peppercorns are harvested while still green in color and at this stage are considered to be unripe berries. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water and then dried. It's during this stage that the peppercorn becomes shriveled and wrinkled and turns to its recognized black or brown color. Green peppercorns are the unripe dried fruit (not cooked), and white peppercorns are the fruit that is allowed to almost fully ripen before they are harvested.
White Peppercorns are favored by the Europeans and possess some pungency, but not a whole lot of aroma and are often used in larger amounts. Green Peppercorns are less pungent than the black with a fresh almost herb-like flavor to them and are used in many steak sauces.
Pink Peppercorns, Schinus molle, have a fruity, sweet mildly pepper taste with a spectacular reddish color and aren't actually related to the other peppercorns at all. Sichuan (or Szechuan) Peppercorns, Xanthoxylum piperitum, are grown in China and feature a flavor that begins warm and gentle and then finishes with a flurry; with an almost numbing effect on your tongue.
Good with eggs, fish, pork, chicken, salads, soup, strawberries and tomatoes.
Works well in combination with basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, thyme and turmeric.
This whole black peppercorn, when freshly ground, produces a distinctly spicy flavor which is slightly hot and biting with a just a hint of sweetness.
It is best to store peppercorns in a cool, dark place and they will keep their flavor for about a year (while ground pepper tends to hold its optimum flavor for only about 4 months). In our facility we are freshly grinding pepper 3 or 4 times a week.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*