Black Pepper: Close-up - Modern Farmer

Black Pepper: Close-up

Black, white or green - they are all peppercorns.

A companion to salt, these small, round black peppercorns seem to just arrive in our pepper mills. But where does black pepper come from? Black pepper, or Piper nigrum, is a perennial flowering vine discovered on the Malabar Coast of India, known today as Kerala. This tropical plant grows up to 30 feet high and is cultivated in India and Southeast Asia. Today, Vietnam is the world’s largest grower of pepper vines.

The fruit of the pepper plant, when dried, is called a peppercorn. A pepper plant takes four years to mature, but can be harvested for seven years afterward. You can tell that peppercorns are ready for harvest when one or two clusters of fruit on a low-hanging stem begin to turn red. Once harvested, they are dried by either the sun or a machine.

There are three kinds of peppercorns – black, white and green – all harvested from the same plant variety, but at various stages of ripeness, and processed in different ways.

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