Black pepper comes from the pepper plant, a smooth woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet in hot and humid tropical climates. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3 to 4 years and develop into berries known as peppercorns. Ground peppercorns produce the spice we call pepper. Black pepper, green pepper and white peppercorns are actually the same fruit (Piper nigrum); the difference in their colour is a reflection of varying stages of development and processing methods.
Black peppercorns are made by picking the pepper berries when they are half ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry, which causes them to shrivel and become dark in colour. Black pepper is the most pungent and flavourful of all types of peppers and it is available as whole or cracked peppercorns, or ground into powder.
Freshly ground black pepper is perhaps the most popular of its forms of consumption, and it is a common sight to see spice mills filled with pepper on many a dining table. It has a better flavour and aroma compared to readymade pepper powders. Crushed pepper is great for sprinkling over salads, soups, sandwiches or even a cup of tea. It not only adds to the flavour but also helps kindle one’s appetite, and helps soothe a disturbed respiratory tract too!