Even in ancient times, the title "king of spices" "stuck" to black pepper. Today we add a pinch of these sharp ground grains to almost every dish. And once this spice was worth its weight in gold: it was used as a currency, and in some countries it was even given to the gods as a sacrifice. Interestingly, in Sanskrit the name of the spice sounds like "marich". And that's exactly what the ancient Indians called the sun.
And what is known today about the properties of pepper? Is it good for anything else besides improving the taste of our favorite foods? It turns out yes. And the list of useful properties is much more than could be expected.
What is black pepper
Black and chilli peppers are not the same plant at all, as some might think. Moreover, these cultures are not even relatives in the botanical family.
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a perennial evergreen liana plant whose stem can grow 15 m or more. In the wild, it selects nearby trees or other plants as a support. Although in pepper plantations, culture is limited in growth at about 4 meters. Piper nigrum represents a family of pepper cultures, that is, it is the so-called "real pepper". Biologists know about one and a half thousand varieties of peppers, but only 10 of them are used as spices.
Piper nigrum is a plant with heart-shaped leathery dark green foliage and small gray-white flowers. Pepper fruits (the same peas used by everyone in the kitchen) are small berries (up to 5 mm in diameter), collected in a brush. As they ripen, the color of the fruit changes from green to bright red. The length of one brush can reach 14 cm and consist of 2-3 dozen berries. One liana per season can produce about 3 kg of berries. The crop yields the first crop no earlier than 3 years, and the peak fruiting usually occurs 7-9 years after planting.
The birthplace of this miracle of nature is called South India. By the way, in some regions black pepper is known as Malabar berry (from the name of the Indian province of Malabar, which, by the way, translates as land of pepper). And already from India, this culture spread throughout Asia, Africa, America. Today, Piper nigrum plantations are grown in different warm countries, but Indian goods collected in the Malabar region are still considered the best. Indian pepper is described as medium hot, but very aromatic. The second most popular is the Indonesian product (its peas are standard size, very pungent and aromatic). Malaysian spice is not so fragrant, but very burning. Vietnamese is recognized by large gray-brown peas without a special aroma, but with a pronounced pungent taste.
Role in history
It is believed that Piper nigrum has been cultivated in India since the Vedic period, and this is almost 3 thousand years ago. Europe learned about this spice in the 4th century BC thanks to Alexander the Great. After a trip to India, the great commander brought amazing berries with a sharp taste. In antiquity, black pepper served as the equivalent of money. It did not lose its value in the Middle Ages - these spicy grains were used even as a dowry to daughters, and the rich people in those days were called nothing more than “pepper bags”.
Over the centuries, disputes have been waged between states over a monopoly on the right to sell this spice. At one time, Arabs were then the monopolists in this area, then the Portuguese, the Dutch, and from the 19th century the right to monopoly passed to American merchants. By the way, black pepper was the first to come to Russia from all spices.
How Piper nigrum becomes a spice
In order for black pepper to reach the consumer in the form we are used to, berries are picked still immature when they are green or yellow. And I must say, this is a very time-consuming process that can stretch for several months, since berries on one vine can ripen at different times.
Then the collected berries are dried in the sun (they turn black and wrinkled), followed by the sorting step. The highest quality is considered very black, hard and heavy pepper. The worst are berries with a grayish tint. By the way, the quality of spices is still checked according to the method used in the Middle Ages: 1000 quality peppercorns should weigh 460 g.
Of the Piper nigrum berries, 4 kinds of spices are usually made - black, white, green and red. Black pepper, as already mentioned, is a dried immature burning fruit with a pronounced fruity-spicy aroma. White is the dry, ripe Piper nigrum berries peeled. This spice is less aromatic, but very spicy. Green peas, like white peppers, are first soaked in brine and then dried at high temperature, which allows you to maintain the fresh green color of the berries, a pleasant aroma and taste. In addition to these, there is also a less popular red Piper nigrum - ripe unpeeled berries. Compared with unripe fruits, these are very sharp, and seem to resemble another kind of pepper - pink, also known as chinus.
The chemical composition of malabar berries
Piper nigrum berries serve as a source of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, vitamins, resins, essential oils, alkaloids and many other phytocomponents. Among the unique ones are piperine and piperidine, which are responsible for the pungent taste of fruits. But most of all, fruits contain starch - in some berries its amount reaches 60% of the total composition. Vitamin-mineral profile is represented by vitamins A, C and B, phosphorus, iron, calcium. Interestingly, 100 g of pea contains three times more ascorbic acid than in ripe oranges. But given the microportions of using spice, of course, it is difficult to consider it as the main source of vitamin. About a tenth of the chemical composition of black pepper is piperine, a component that actually makes the berries a hot spice. The effect of piperine is also enhanced by other “burning” components: chevisin, piperitin and piperidine, but there are very few of them in this product.
This is an amazing spice. She is credited with antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, analgesic, antispasmodic, antioxidant, tonic, warming, carminative, diuretic and choleretic properties.
It has already been mentioned that in the composition of the spice there is a “burning” substance piperine. So, thanks to this particular component, black pepper is useful for improving blood circulation in the body, and also as a stimulant of the secretion of digestive enzymes.
Small portions of black pepper are useful for the cardiovascular system, in particular as a means of improving blood circulation and preventing excessive thrombosis. And in combination with honey, this product becomes very useful for the respiratory system, in particular, helps to remove mucus and prevents its excessive formation. This spice is called the best digestive stimulant. It removes toxins, toxins and parasites from the body, has a beneficial effect on the liver, is useful for infectious diseases of the bladder, cholera, asthma and disorders of the nervous system.
In addition, Piper nigrum is called the best spice for weight loss. As the results of various studies show, some of the chemicals contained in it destroy fat cells. But those who want to lose weight with the help of spices should know that its daily dose is not more than 4 g. To speed up fat burning, it is useful to drink a cocktail of cucumber juice (100 ml), bell pepper and tomato (50 ml each), to which a pinch of freshly ground malabar berries.
Black pepper may be helpful:
- with violations of blood circulation;
- in the absence of appetite;
- with insufficient secretion of gastric juice;
- with colic, constipation, weak intestinal motility;
- in the role of a diuretic;
- with arthrosis, rheumatism, arthritis;
- with SARS;
- with sprains and muscle pain;
- for the treatment of herpes;
- to strengthen immunity;
- for the treatment of migraine, weakness and dizziness;
- to activate the work of the spleen;
- for blood thinning;
- with dermatitis;
- to eliminate toothache;
- with diseases of the oral cavity;
- with excess weight;
- like an aphrodisiac.
Use in traditional medicine
For the first time, black pepper as a product with beneficial properties for the body is mentioned in Ayurveda. From ancient times, to improve health, peas, tinctures from it and essential oils that were used orally and externally (in the form of compresses, rubbing, baths, inhalations, rinses) were used. But in any case, it is important to strictly observe the dosage, since the slightest excess of the allowable portions can cause unpleasant side effects.
In folk medicine, black pepper is a popular remedy for colds and coughs. It is believed that a cough can be cured if you take a pinch of ground spices three times a day with water. To overcome a cold, it is recommended 4 times a day to eat 2 raisins, into which to shove Piper nigrum peas. With diarrhea, it’s useful to drink a tablespoon of baked milk with a pinch of black pepper, and if you have heaviness in your stomach, a mixture of Malabar berries, cumin and baked milk. For the treatment of respiratory diseases, traditional healers advise to brew a little black pepper and turmeric in milk.
To get rid of sciatica and joint pain, it is useful to take a medicine from olive oil and Piper nigrum. In a glass of oil, put 2 tablespoons of peppercorns and simmer in a water bath for 15 minutes. It is useful to rub the chilled product in sore spots.
Traditional healers use ointment from ghee and ground pepper to remove warts, to treat eczema, boils, urticaria and inflammation on the skin. A mixture of black pepper and henna was used to treat lichen in the East. And if you grind black grains into powder and mix with yogurt, you get a folk remedy for freckles and acne.
In addition, black pepper, according to ancient Indians, is useful for impotence. Ayurveda adherents advise to mix equal spice and sugar in equal proportions, then dilute half a teaspoon of this mixture in a glass of milk and drink. The course of treatment is 7 days.
Use in cosmetology and perfumery
Black pepper is a product that is in demand not only in cooking and medicine, but also in cosmetology. Berry extract is added to many cosmetic products for skin, hair and oral care.
It is known that creams with black pepper extract have antiseptic and antibacterial abilities, which means they are great for problem skin. By the way, in dermatology, the extract of Malabar berries helps fight acne, ulcers, boils and festering acne.
Means for the oral cavity, in the composition of which there was a place for black pepper, have antimicrobial and antibacterial effects. This type of drug is usually useful for treating inflamed gums, as well as for freshening your breath (by eliminating pathogenic bacteria).
Face creams with Piper nigrum extract have antioxidant abilities, therefore, are the best for aging skin. In addition, such drugs prevent the formation of early wrinkles, accelerate the regeneration of epidermal cells, have tonic properties, improve blood microcirculation, and with it complexion. In addition, pepper extract is already a traditional component of effective anti-cellulite creams. To overcome dandruff, improve hair growth and stop baldness also help with black spice.
And in aromatherapy, Piper nigrum essential oil is used. Mainly, it is used as a natural medicine against a tendency to depressive states, tearfulness, feelings of fear and inattention. In addition, the fumes of this spicy spice are considered useful for disinfecting the room, eliminating headaches, easing breathing and stimulating sexual activity. Black pepper essential oil has a beneficial effect on the well-being of women during menopause and with PMS.
Essential oil is useful to use during anti-cellulite massage. Mustard, almond or rapeseed oil (6 tbsp.) Is taken as the basis for the fat-burning massage oil, 10 drops of black pepper and lavender essential oil, as well as 5 drops of sandalwood and frankincense are added to it.
Using essential oil for therapy is important not to overdo it. No more than 3-5 drops of the product are added to the aroma lamp, no more than 3 drops per 10 ml of the main substance to the basis for massages, 2 drops to the bath, and 2-4 drops per 10 ml of base to cosmetics.
People with developed sense of smell catch the smell of pepper in some perfumes, especially for men. Perfumers really often use this pungent smell, creating new aromas. It is believed that a sharp note of spice gives the aroma bouquet completeness and harmony.
Contraindications and possible harm
Like all hot spices, black pepper is contraindicated for people with stomach ulcers, hypertension, allergies to the product, pregnant women and women during lactation, as well as people with anemia, urinary tract diseases and while taking certain medications. Side effects from excessive use of spices can occur in many ways: from headache, to irritation and increased irritability.
The use of Piper nigrum in cooking directly depends on its degree of maturity. The most popular is black pepper, used in the food industry and home cooking. Peas or ground pepper is added to almost all dishes, including cold appetizers, first and second courses, canned food and marinades. It is combined with meat, poultry, fish, vegetables. White pepper is usually a component of creamy sauces, it is added to dishes of white meat and fish. Green Piper nigrum is a traditional spice in Asian cuisine, although this seasoning is also not alien to Europeans. Green pepper is a versatile spice suitable for meat, fish, seafood, poultry, and various sauces. But perhaps the most original use of the spice is to add it to desserts and some drinks (coffee, tea, cocktails, sbiten). By the way, the classic recipes of Russian gingerbread, Indian and Baltic cookies also contain this spicy spice.
For culinary purposes, use peas and ground pepper. The first without loss of quality can be stored in sealed packaging for several years. Shelf life of ground - no more than 20 days, then it loses taste, aroma and useful properties. Therefore, for cooking it is better to take freshly ground pepper.
How to grow at home
Piper nigrum is a heat-loving plant, so in our latitudes it is unlikely to grow it in the garden. But on the home windowsill is very possible. All that is needed for this is to fill in with water for a day for ordinary peas and peas, and then sow it in the ground (it is best to mix sand, humus, turf). The optimum temperature for homemade pepper is 25-30 degrees (it can be lower, but in any case higher than 10 degrees). In an apartment, Piper nigrum can grow up to 2 meters, and he will give the first crop for 2-3 years. Paprika likes moderate hydration and does not tolerate direct sunlight.
Black pepper turned out to be so difficult - a favorite spice of ancient Hindus and modern gourmets. But adding it to your favorite dishes, the main thing is not to pepper.