What Is Piper Nigrum?
You may know piper nigrum by its more common name, black pepper. The piper nigrum plant yields black pepper fruits, which are the sources of black peppercorns, white peppercorns, and green peppercorns. The hot and aromatic spice is used in almost every country to flavor food or to enhance dietary supplements. In fact, many reviews point to various cultures using black pepper in traditional medicinal practices.1
Piper nigrum can grow to a height of 33 feet or more. When the stem establishes itself, it can produce lots of side-shoots, giving the plant a bushy body.2
The almond-shaped leaves taper toward the tips and grow in clusters along flowering stalks. White and yellow-green flowers grow on the stalks. The berry-like fruit turns red as it ripens and contains a single, tiny seed.3
When the pepper fruit is fully mature (but still green and shiny) it is picked and produces black pepper. Riper fruit produces white pepper.4
History Of Piper Nigrum
Black pepper is famously known as the “king of spice,” and for a good reason — it has been known to influence human culture for thousands of years. Piper nigrum is indigenous to the southern parts of India and has been cultivated since the dawn of recorded history. In fact, you can find evidence that pepper has been utilized in almost every culture since then.5
Gatherers used to collect peppercorns from the tropical forests by hand. Sold from the Malabar coast to merchant ships, pepper was called “black gold” and used as a currency in the absence of any standard money. In Europe during the Middle Ages, black pepper was even accepted as a dowry.6,7
Trading between India and Europe was expensive, and over time, black pepper was sought after as a luxury item. When Asian regions entered the spice trade, the cost of pepper went down. Still, the search for new spices drove most exploration by Portugal and the Spanish monarchy.8 Today, the question of where to buy black pepper is an easy one to answer: everywhere.