Black Pepper

Black Pepper or Kali Mirch (Piper nigrum) is that humble spice that encouraged the great explorers set off their voyages. What followed was slavery for around 200ish years. More than any other spices, black pepper brought the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, the French all the way to India. Grown on a vine, in form of a cluster, peppercorns are initially green in colour. As they ripen, the colour changes to orange and then red. Usually picked at this level of maturity, the red peppercorns are then sun-dried. An enzyme on the outside called Pericarp turns it black and gives it a wrinkly look.

Surprising enough, black, green, pink, and white, all varieties come from this same plant. Green peppercorns are picked and immersed in a brine or oil that stops the action of Pericarp, maintaining the green colour. Green peppercorns can also be quick dried to form a dry crinkled green peppercorn. White pepper has a couple of methods, however. Some people soak the red peppercorns, then peel the outer cover and sundry to get the white variety. While some others, dry process the black peppercorn. On this trip to Munnar and Thekaddy, we were introduced to at least 10 to 12 different varieties of peppercorns. The picture above shows the varying grade of black pepper from big 5 mm boys to little ones. Malabar Garbled Organic pepper has a bold, pungent flavour, while Tellicherry (our personal favorite) has a floral yet bold flavour. While some were mixed with the Southeast Asian varieties, some were strictly from a particular farm. Some were strong and pungent while some were rhythmically flavorsome.

The best part of learning pepper was walking through the farms, randomly picking peppercorns and tasting them. Sure enough, our mouth was tingling, in a good way though!

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