Peppercorns have been used to add spice to food for centuries. They have been mentioned since the 1st Century A.D., when Pliny the Elder complained about how much they cost. True peppercorns come in three colors black, white and green.
All true peppercorns are berries from the Piper nigrum plant.
Black peppercorns are the mostly ripe berries that are left in piles after picking to ferment then laid out to dry. As they dry the skin turns black and hard.
White peppercorns are left on the plant longer. After they are harvested they are soaked to soften the skin. After the skin has softened it is peeled and dried.
Green peppercorns are harvested earlier than white or black peppercorns. They can be dried or preserved in vinegar, brine or water.
The Piper nigrum plant is native to the forests of Tranvancore and Malabar. Piper nigrum is now grown in tropical regions around the world.
- The Penguin Companion to Food; Alan Davidson; 2002
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