Pepper, the king of spices, is a famous and worldwide favored spice, but how is pepper made? Where does it come from, and which processes is it going through before being sold?
The United States is currently the world's largest importer of the spice, and India is its most productive exporter. Both black and white pepper come from a bush called Piper nigrum, or most commonly called, Black Pepper. Although there are well over 1,000 species of the Piper family, Piper nigrum is the only bush that is used to create pepper. Berry-like fruits, called peppercorns, are found in these plants, and each peppercorn contains a single seed.
Peppercorns contain a resin, an organic substance, called chavicine, which gives pepper its "hot" sensation. These berries are the only raw material used for the production of both black and white pepper.
The process of creating this spice has 2 major steps: cultivation and grinding. This is, of course, followed by the packaging and distribution of it.
As stated above, the peppercorns grow on bushes called Piper nigrum, which can be obtained to heights of up to 13 feet (4m). The berries are cultivated whether they are ripe or not. Interestingly, the berries are hand-picked instead of being obtained by machines. When they are not ripe, the berry is green, and, once obtained, is placed onto a drying platform where they lie in the sun to sundry for about 9 to 10 days. Once the berries are dry, they become blackened. This black "coating" can be removed through a seperate process to create white pepper. These are then transported to a factory where the next process occurs.
The ripe berries are red and are first bathed in boiling water for up to 10 minutes before being placed onto the drying platform. In this case, the peppercorn is ready to move into the factory within 4 to 5 days. This process is much quicker.
Before the peppercorns are ground, the dust, dirt, twigs, and other impurities are removed by blowers and gravity seperators. Sometimes the peppercorns are treated with a chemical to kill any possible bacteria.
A process called "cold roll milling" consists of numerous rollers that grind and crush the peppercorns to the pepper we know it as. It is then packaged and shipped across the world to consumers like us.
Pepper, compared to many other spices is prepared quite quickly and it has become one of the most popular spices in the world. However, the plant that these berries are grown on are adapted to only a few places on Earth.