P is for Peppers and Peppercorns! Yes Peppers! Peppers – the king of spices is one of the most important spices used in Indian cooking. There are basically two types of peppers – black pepper or what we call in Hindi as Kaali Mirch and chilli peppers. While black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning, the chilli pepper (also known as chile pepper or chilli pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
The fruit of black pepper vine is known as a peppercorn when dried and is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. The grounded pepper and peppercorns are simply called peppers. There are apparently three types of peppers and they are black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (ripe fruit seeds). In India, black pepper is native to South India, where it is extensively cultivated for its fruit and other medicinal benefits. Presently Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world’s Piper nigrum crop.
Did you know?
- Dried ground pepper has been used since ancient times for both its flavour and as a traditional medicine.
- Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice. It is one of the most common spices added to European cuisine and its descendants. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine, not to be confused with the capsaicin that gives fleshy peppers theirs.
- It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning, and is often paired with salt.
- Capsaicinoids and several other related chemicals are the substances that give Chilli peppers their distinct intensity when ingested or applied topically.