Black Pepper is a flavorful, medium hot spice used widely in cooking. It is made from the peppercorns of the Piper nigrum plant, native to South India. The green unripe peppercorns are boiled, dried and then ground into black pepper.
A pepper grinder is recommended so you can grind fresh peppercorns to achieve the best flavor.
Black peppercorns are made by picking the pepper berries when they are half ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry which causes them to shrivel and become dark in color. Alternatively, green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green in color, while white peppercorns are picked when very ripe and subsequently soaked in brine to remove their dark outer shell leaving just the white pepper seed.
Selecting and Buying
Pipers like to be in partial to full sun with 50% or better humidity (although they do fine below 50%) Plants should be watered thoroughly when soil appears dry.
Pipers are moderate to light feeders and should be fed with a 10-10-10 fertilizer 1/4 tsp per gallon every 1-2 weeks (discontinuing in the winter)
For peppercorn production, pipers should be grown under bright light and kept warm. They are vining in nature and slow growing. It will take a couple of years before they start producing flowers then peppercorns.
Pipers are not prone to insect problems. The only disease problems are due to root diseases. It is important to keep pipers warm (above 65F) and to not keep wet or allowed to totally dry out.
Preparation and Use
Add pepper that you have freshly ground in a mill at the end of the cooking process. Since it loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding it near the end will help to preserve its flavor
Conserving and Storing
Black pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while ground pepper will stay fresh for about three months. Pepper can also be frozen although this will make its flavor more pronounced.