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Home > Types of Spices > Pepper > Black Pepper
Black Pepper
Black PepperBotanical names:Piper nigrum Linn.
Family name;Piperaceae.

Indian names are as follows:
Hindi:Kali Mirch
Bengali:Gol Morich, Kalo marich
Gujarati:Kala Mari
Kannada:Kare Menasu
Malayalam:Karumaluku, Nallamaluku
Marathi:Kali Mirch, Mire
Oriya:Gol Maricha
Punjab:Kali Mirch
Sanskrit:Ushana, Maricha, Hapusha
Urdu:Kali Mirch, Siah Mirch.

Black pepper is considered as the `King of Spices` as judged from the volume of international trade, being the highest among all the spices known. It is said European ventured new world primarily because of this spice. India, during recent past supplied about 70 to 80% of this spice to the world trade, though the share has come down considerably now.

There are many varieties/types of black pepper known in the world trade. They take their names from localities where grown or from the ports through which they are exported, e.g. Tellichery, Malabar, Alleppy, Lampong, Saigon, Penang and Singapore. These peppers differ slightly in their physical and chemical characteristics, color, size, shape, flavor and bite.

The spikes or fruits are ready for harvest when they are fully mature and start yellowing or become yellowish. At this stage, whole spikes are removed from the vines with the aid of ladders. The spikes are kept for a day or so, where the berries are removed by rubbing or scrubbing and dried in the sun for a few days on mats or on clean concrete floors. They are turned over and, later, berries are removed by rubbing, threshing or trampling. When completely dry, the outer skin of the berries becomes dark brown to black and get shriveled. Generally 100 kg of fresh berries yield about 26 to 39 kg of black pepper of commerce.

In addition to black pepper, pepper is also sold in the following processed forms: White Pepper and Processed Green Pepper. They may be discussed briefly below.
White Pepper White and black peppers are prepared from the berries of the same plant or species. The only difference is that for preparing black pepper, spikes are harvested when berries are fully mature, but unripe, i.e. when green or greenish yellow, but for preparing white pepper, the harvesting of berries is delayed until they become ripe i.e. yellowish red or red.
White pepper is prepared by removing the outer pericarp of the harvested berries, either before or after drying by any one of the following techniques: Water steeping technique: using ripe fresh berries, using dried berries. Steaming or water boiling technique. Decortication technique.

The details of the above techniques are not discussed in details here. They are being practiced and well known in various pepper growing areas, varying up to certain extent on the basis of end product.

Black Pepper SpikesTender green pepper spikes harvested when semi-mature or fallen spikes are often sold in market for use in pickles. Besides, process of canning of tender green pepper berries (whole, destemmed or with stem) in 2% brine (common salt solution) in different sizes of cans, has been standardized. Besides, methods of preparing different types of green pepper pickles in brine (12 to 16%), vinegar, oil and in conjunction with other pickling materials like tender green mangoes, green ginger, green chillies, etc., have been evolved.

Analysis of 23 types of black pepper from Kerala, South and North Kanara, Coorg and Assam gave the following ranges of value:
Moisture:8.7 to 14.1%
Total nitrogen:1.55 to 2.60%
Nitrogen in non-volatile ether extract:2.70 to 4.22%
Non-volatile ether extract:3.9 to 11.5%
Volatile ether extract:0.3 to 4.2%
Alcohol extract:4.4 to 12.0%
Starch (by acid hydrolysis):28 to 49%
Crude fiber:8.7 to 18%
Crude piperine:2.8 to 9.0%
Piperine (spectrophotometrically):1.7 to 7.4%
Total ash:3.9 to 5.7%
Acid insoluble ash (sand):0.03 to 0.55%.

Starch is the predominant constituent of pepper. It accounts for 34.8% in black pepper, 56.5% in white pepper and 63.2% in decorticated white pepper. Pepper starch consists of minute polygonal granules resembling those of rice, but much smaller. The helum is visible only under high magnification. Protein of pepper has not been fully investigated. A considerable portion of nitrogen in pepper exists in a non-proteinous form, such as alkaloids. Of the 12% of water soluble nitrogen, non-protein nitrogen constitutes about 82% and of this, more than half is made up of simple amino acids which can readily utilized by the human system.

The alkaloid piperine is considered to be the major constituent responsible for the biting taste of black pepper; it is absent in the leaves and stems of the pepper plant. Piperine is sparingly soluble in water, readily soluble in alcohol, and on hydrolysis splits into piperidine and piperic acid. Piperine is at first tasteless but on prolonged contact develops a sharp biting taste: alcoholic solution of piperine is intensely pungent. Other pungent alkaloids, occurring in pepper in small amounts, are chavicine, piperidine and piperetine. Chavicine, a resinous isomer of piperine, is said to be the most biting ingredient of the pepper, and on hydrolysis, yields piperidine and isochavicinic acid ( an isomer of piperic acid). Piperine is stated to occur in pepper in amounts usually ranging from 4 to 10% but this amount represents crude piperine, the content of true piperine being lower.

The characteristic aromatic odor of pepper is due to the presence of a volatile oil in the cells of pericarp. On steam distillation, crushed black pepper yields 1.0 to 2.6% (up to 4.8%) of the volatile oil, the yield depending greatly upon the age of the dried fruits subjected to distillation. For the production of oil, the lower priced qualities of pepper, damaged or broken fruits and pepper hulls (obtained as a by-product in the preparation of white pepper) serve as economic raw material. They are distilled as fresh as possible to avoid loss of the oil during storage.

Pepper siftings and dust (refuse obtained during the drying or garbling of pepper) are also sometimes distilled to yield inferior oils having harsher and coarser odor and flavor than those from sound fruits. Siftings give 1.44% and dust 0.85% of the oil.

Oil of pepper consists chiefly of the terpenes, l-phellandrene, caryophyllene, and perhaps dipentene. The characteristic odor of the oil has been attributed to the presence of small amount of oxygenated compounds (about 0.5% of the oil).

Three different by-products are available in the market viz. the pepper rejections or waste varagu or the unfertilized buds, and the stems and inflorescence stalks. Varagu and stalks are poor in ether soluble fractions and have a high content of crude fiber. Pepper rejections, however, are rich in the bite factor and can be used for preparation of oleoresin.

Black PepperPepper hulls, or shells removed during the preparation of white pepper, are sold separately as a light to brown powder with a very pungent odor and taste, and has been found useful for flavoring tinned foods. Pepper shells are rich in volatile oil and can be used as a source of pepper oil.

As indicated above black pepper is known all over the world as `King of Spices`. Therefore it is natural that its most popular use as a spice rather than any other virtues. Black pepper constitutes an important component of culinary seasoning of universal use and an essential ingredient of numerous foodstuffs. It is an important constituent of whole pickling spice and many ground spice formulae of seasonings, etc. for poultry, sausages, hamburger and frankfurter seasonings. White pepper commands a higher market price for use in such products as mayonnaise where the black specks of black pepper are not liked.

Oil of pepper is a valuable adjunct in the flavoring of sausages, canned meats, soups, table sauces and certain beverages and liquors. It is used in perfumery, particularly in bouquets of the oriental type to which it imparts spicy notes difficult to identify. The oil is also used in carnation compound for soaps. It finds uses in medicines. Oils of white and black pepper appear to contain growth stimulants for yeasts.

It has a number of medicinal virtues. It is commonly used as antacid and digestive spice. The ancient Aryans considered it as a powerful remedy for various disorders of the anatomical system and prescribed it as an effective cure for dyspepsia, malaria, delirium, hemorrhoids etc. The Egyptians used it for embalming. The Asians are said to have used it as an aphrodisiac. The French and Dutch housewives use it as an insect repellant and moth killer. It is considered as an excellent preservative of food.

Piperine, the bite factor of pepper, possesses some feeble anti periodic property. It has been used to impart a pungent taste to brandy. It has been tried as an effective insecticide. It is particularly toxic to houseflies.

It is thus, an important resource that gives us many products. Even waste from the post harvesting process gives commercially important products. Thus in pepper growing region, economic activities can be planned based on pepper not only to produce value added products but also to generate large employment generation in rural areas. The technological need is very simple thus easily replicable. More important being every product that this plant gives has commercial importance both globally and in domestic market.
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