Black pepper comes from several species of a vinous perennial climber, which thrives best in humid rainy tropical regions. The spice is the fruit, called peppercorns.
Pepper is known for its spicy aroma and hot pungent taste. It is present as bunch on a spike. As it matures the berry first grows into a sphere of 4 mm, deep green in colour due to the chlorophyll on the outer layer of the skin. At full maturity the green colour turns into red.
A fresh pepper berry consists of a hard core and a softer outer rim. To produce black pepper the berries are plucked when they have not yet fully matured. The green berries are then dried in the sun. As a result, the skin derives its typical black wrinkled and spherical shape. The black colour is caused by the action of an enzyme which makes that the black pigments mask the chlorophyll.
The dried black pepper will have a typical spicy aroma, caused by essential oil, which is mainly distributed in the inner portion of the outer rind and a very small amount in the core. The hot pungent taste is caused by the piperine, which is located in the hard core. The essential oil content varies between 2 and 4% and the piperine content between 2 and 10%.
Immature berries have a lower density and are therefore referred to as ‘light berries’. Small unfertilized and hence undeveloped berries are known as ‘pin heads’. These typically will have a diameter of less than 2 mm.
Main growing areas are in Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, India and Malaysia.
Black pepper is available whole, cracked and ground.