Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

Piper nigrum

Piper nigrum Piper nigrum

Common Name: Black Pepper

Origin: India, Southeast Asia

Black pepper seems like the major pungent spice. From the European point of view, it is the very prototype of “hot.”

It has made it onto the table as the condiment par excellence, right alongside salt, but considering the importance pepper used to have, it has fallen deeply.

All the more reason to return some attention to it…


Originally from the Western Ghats, first cultivated on the Malabar Coast of India. From there, black pepper was introduced to Southeast Asia, 2000 years ago. Only in the 20th century, plantations were established in the tropics around the world.

Flavors/ Types

The plant that is black pepper, Piper nigrum, not only produces the spice black pepper.

  • Black pepper, the spice, are the unripe, dried fruits; tasting aromatic and pungent.
  • White pepper are unripe dried fruits the skin of which has been removed, making them somewhat more pungent but less aromatic.
  • Green pepper are unripe fruits which are usually pickled to preserve their color and aromatic, rather grassy, flavor.
  • Red pepper, which is even less commonly used than green pepper, are ripe fruits. (True red pepper has to be differentiated from the “red” / pink “pepper” which comes from an entirely different family of plants.)

Proveniences /Grades

Black pepper, or at least the best quality of black pepper, is still predominantly cultivated in India and Southeast Asia, e.g.:

  • India: Malabar, Thalassery (Tellicherry), (Pondicherry)
  • Malaysia: Sarawak
  • Indonesia: Lampong (from Sumatra), Muntok (from Bangka Island)

Besides the real/normal black pepper, there are other peppers which are closely related: long pepperpiper cubeba; or peppers such as the wild Malagassy voatsi perifery, Piper borbonense.