Black Pepper

Origin & Names

Black Pepper otherwise known as the 'king of spices' was attributed its name both due to its historical importance in terms of value and also its modern day importance in terms of trade volume. Pepper was both used as currency historically in the East and the West and was at times traded on equal terms with gold. It was the cause of many conflicts throughout history and was the main reason Vasco de Gama set sail from Portugal to Southern India in what was the first European exploration to Asia. 

Although the lowlands between the Malabar Coast of Southern India and the highlands of the Western Ghats is still an important pepper growing region the bulk of today's black pepper is grown in both Vietnam and Brazil. At Hill & Vale we continue to source our black pepper from Wayanad in Kerala as the quality and flavour that is produced through the terroir, we believe continues to create a great tasting product that rivals the best in the world.  

Western Ghats mountains

Names and qualities of pepper can vary greatly and so we just wanted to clear up any confusion about some of the labelling you see in the supermarket. Telicherry despite it being an actual place in Kerala is not significant in where the pepper comes from. Telicherry is rather a size than an origin. It is the same with Malabar. Although this too is a place in Kerala, it also is a grade of pepper according to size rather than where it is grown. The grades of pepper on the world market are decided by size instead of flavour with the larger peppers given a higher market price. TGSEB - Telicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold is the largest graded pepper followed by TGEB (Telicherry Garbled Extra Bold) and finally followed by MG1 (Malabar Garbled-1) and MG-2 (Malabar Garbled 2).

 

Telicherry special extra bold sorting box

  

Pepper sorting machine - Coorg, Karnataka

Geography & Cultivation

Black pepper is the dried unripe fruit of a vine that grows in tropical climates. The pepper plant is a perennial climber that grows to a height of 10 metres or more on other tress. It has almond shaped leaves and spikes of yellow-green flowers with green berries that ripen to red and form conical extensions called catkins. The fruits are picked green and immature to produce green pepper, fully grown but still green to produce black pepper and fully ripe to produce red pepper. 

Organic black pepper plantation - Wayanad

Pepper as with many other crops around the world is becoming increasingly threatened by climate change. On our sourcing trip to India, it was great to see farmers adopting different varieties of black pepper in order to mitigate any potential large scale loss through disease. Although black pepper is traded as a commodity on the world market price, at Hill & Vale we are trying to work with farmers to bring specific varieties of black pepper to market. This means that farmers can both build resilience through diversity and we as consumers can benefit from new and interesting flavours. 

Peppercorn nursery - Coorg, Karnataka

Food Uses

Black pepper is incredibly versatile and it is used in both savoury and sweet dishes. It has a fine, fruity and pungent fragrance coupled with warm citrus and woody notes. Its spiciness comes from the chemical compound piperine and so its heat is different to that of chilli whose spice is caused through  capsicum. Try pairing pepper with tomatoes for a savoury combination or with pears or strawberries for a sweet and savoury taste.     

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