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 white pepper traditionally (Indonesia, China) the berries are plucked when they have reached their full maturity and are deep red in colour. After being plucked the red fresh berries are soaked in water for a couple of days after which the red skin is removed by abrasion. What is left is the white inner core of the berry. The soaking process causes fermentation which releases a chemical substance called skatole. This skatole gives white pepper the slight off-smell, often referred as ‘cow-stable’ smell.
In the largest pepper growing region Vietnam the traditional way of producing white pepper by soaking the red berry has been replaced by water soaking the dried black berry. The removal process of the skin is more abrasive than in the traditional method and results in a more grayish colour.
As the outer skin has been removed white pepper contains less volatile oil than black pepper.
Main growing areas are in Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, China and Malaysia.
White pepper is available whole, cracked and ground.