Black Pepper (Piper nigrum): all you want to know.

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You will be surprised to know that black pepper is a fruit.  Yes!  And this tiny fruit originated from the southern coastal regions of India.  From here, it spread to the tropical countries of Asia (where the rainfall was high and the temperature was hot and suitable) like Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. and then spread to the rest of the continents.

Black pepper is one of the world’s most commonly used spices and its largest exporter is Vietnam, which produced 163,000 tons of black pepper in 2019, which is 34% of the world’s total exports.

Pepper fruit is called Peppercorn which is dried and used as a spice.  Its size is about 5mm and it grows in form of a bunch or cluster on a small stem.

Does black pepper have medicinal properties?

  • Our bodies contain free radicals, which are unstable atoms, which enter cells and damage them, causing cancer, inflammation, heart diseases, and skin diseases.  We get these free radicals mostly from pollution, smoking and strong sunlight.
  • Black pepper is rich in a compound called piperine which has antioxidant properties.  Piperine gives a smell and taste to the black pepper also. 
  • Piperine neutralizes free radicals and prevents our cells from their harmful effects.  That is, black pepper is very useful for the prevention of cancer, heart diseases and skin diseases.
  • It also helps in keeping sugar and cholesterol levels under control.
  • Black pepper is good for the brain too. Research shows that piperine strengthens the brain, reduces stress and protects against amnesia. It also improves mood and enhances cognitive function.

✓Black pepper is also beneficial for digestion.  It helps in the absorption of many vitamins and nutrients such as calcium and selenium.  It also increases the number of good bacteria present in our gut.

How it is grown?

It is propagated vegetatively (by cuttings) as propagation by seeds takes too long. The fruit takes different forms before becoming a black pepper and in every form; it is used as a spice.

a)  In its immature form, it grows in form of green clusters on the vine. This green cluster is used as a spice in the countries like Vietnam and Thailand and is used in their various dishes.

b) The green cluster later turns red. If you pluck it up and dry it in the sunlight, it will turn hard and black. At this stage, it will be known as black pepper.

c) We can also produce white pepper at this stage by removing the hulls from the peppercorn before drying it up.

Remember that peppercorn can be used as a spice at any stage, whether it is green, red, black or white. White pepper gives a different taste to the food.

Can it be grown at home?

Yes, it can be grown at home.  The pepper plant is a climbing vine belonging to the family of plants known as Piperaceae.  It needs support in the form of a tree, stick or stake to grow.

On a commercial scale, it is attached to long poles or other trees, clinging to which the plant grows upwards.  A pepper plant can reach a height of 33 feet, gives fruit in 2 to 5 years and continues to give fruit for the next 30 years.

How to grow black pepper using seeds:

Mostly it is grown by grafting but its seeds can be grown in a pot.

1. Take a pot.

2. Put a loamy soil rich in organic matter and Cocopete in it.

3. Choose fresh seeds from a healthy plant or a local garden centre.

4. It needs soft and moist soil that is not too wet.

5. Soak the seeds overnight to soften their thick seed coat.

6. Now add two to three spoons of vinegar (Apple Cider Vinegar is better) in the same water in which the seeds are soaked.  Vinegar softens the seeds slightly to facilitate germination.

7. Now, the next day, plant the seeds in a pot and cover the seeds with the soil

8 Try to maintain its temperature around 80 °F.

8. Water it regularly and keep the soil moderately moist.

Pepper is a tropical plant that needs moderate heat and humidity.  It cannot tolerate high heat and its leaves start to burn.  It is best to grow it indoors or in a partially shady spot. The plant may take 30 to 40 days to sprout from the seed.

Since it is a vine plant, as soon as it sprouts, places it in the shade of a stick or another tree and stick its vine to the tree.

   Generally, its growing time is from January to April..

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