What is Black Pepper?

Piper nigrum L.

Family Piperaceae 

Black peppercorns are the dried black berries (fruits) of the woody vine (Piper nigrum), which is a native of southern India. They are harvested while still green and unripe and then dried. During drying, the green berries turn black and wrinkly.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the world’s most traded spice. It’s also the most used spice in western kitchens, after salt. Its spiciness is due to the chemical piperine and pungency due to volatile oils.

Black White Green or Pink?

Peppercorns are marketed in four colours, black, white, green or pink. The black, white and green peppercorns belong to the same species, Piper nigrum (Family Piperaceae).

By K Hari Krishnan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Black peppercorns are the fruits (botanically known as a drupe) of the Piper nigrum vine. A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a single seed. Examples of drupes are mango, plum, apricot.

Black peppercorns are picked when mature but still green, then dried.

They become black and wrinkled after drying and are called Black Peppercorns.

Black peppercorns can be sold whole, cracked, coarsely or finely ground.


The different Pepper Cultivars

  • Indian Black Pepper is of high quality. It’s mainly produced in Malabar coast.
  • Tellicherry pepper is form north India and is one of the most priced black peppercorns. It’s more expensive and is the one preferred for making Italian Salami.
  • Mangalore pepper is very dark and has a good flavour.

Pepper Seeds (White Peppercorns)

When the black peppercorns are stripped of their black coat they become white peppercorns, which are actually seeds, like the single stone found inside the plum or apricot.

The pepper seeds are a source of ‘oil of pepper’ and oleoresin, used in flavouring sausages, canned food and drinks. The oils have a pepper aroma and flavour, but lack the pungency. The pungency of pepper is due to the active principles in the volatile oils, piperine and resin. (The Penguin Companion to Food)

Pepper increases the flow of saliva and gastric juices, thereby improving the appetite. If consumed in sufficient quantities it will have a cooling effect. (The Penguin Companion to Food


Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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