What Is Black Pepper?
Vietnam, Indonesia, and India are the leading producers of black pepper which are widely used for seasoning and as a spice. The black pepper fruit grows from a woody vine known as pepper plant classified in the family Piperaceae. The fruit appears in the form of small deep brown to black berries which are plucked and dried. Once dried, the fruit is referred to as a peppercorn. The plant is indigenous to the southern region of India, and it thrives in tropical climates. Since ancient times, black pepper has been renowned as a useful spice, and it spread from India through trade to the rest of the world.
Uses And Benefits Of Black Pepper
Black pepper is one of the most traded spices in the world. Its spiciness is attributed to the presence of the chemical piperine. It is popularly added to cuisines in different places in the world and is mostly used together with salt. Black pepper gives off a strong pungent aroma when added to food.
The spice is hailed for some healing properties. It aids in food digestion and metabolism due to the presence of monoterpenes hydrocarbons and piperine. These properties help the digestive system to combat constipation, intestinal gas, and colic. The spice induces urination and sweating and thus aids in toxin-removal. Black pepper is commonly incorporated in tea to relieve colds, flu, viral infections, and other respiratory ailments. The fruit aids in the breakdown of fat cells and subsequently aids in weight loss. Black pepper has antioxidant and antibacterial properties and it also a source of essential elements including iron, manganese, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Cultivation And Production Of Black Pepper
The pepper plant thrives in hot and humid tropical climates, and it can reach a height of 33 feet. However, under cultivation, the plant is restricted to a maximum height of 13 feet. The ideal annual rainfall for the plant is 200 cm while the temperatures range from 10 to 40 degrees Celsius. The plant grows well in soil rich in humus and well drained with a pH ranging from 5.0 to 6.5. Cultivation can either be done through cuttings or by use of seeds. Cuttings are preferred over seeds in commercial cultivation since they require a shorter period to grow. The pepper plant has a climbing nature and planting is done against a support such as a pole or a tree. After 3 to 4 years the plant bears small flowers on pendulous spikes. The fruits are produced in the fifth year, and harvesting commences once one or two fruits appear red which mostly happens after six or seven months. Handpicking is the common method of harvesting. The spikes are spread out in the sun until the berries shrivel and turn dark. The berries are then stripped off the spikes and are packaged as whole or in grounded form.
Top Black Pepper Producing Countries
Vietnam is the world leader in production of black pepper, producing 163,000 tons which are about 34% of the world’s production. The plant is a traditional cash crop in the country, and 95% of the black pepper produced is for export primarily to the US, India, Netherlands, and Germany. Indonesia is the second largest producer at 89,000 tons while India produces 53,000 tons. Top black pepper-producing regions in India are Kerala, Karnataka, Konkan, and Tamil Nadu. Other countries on the list are Brazil (42,000 tons) and China (31,000).
The World's Top Black Pepper Producing Countries
|Rank||Country||Production (in thousands of tons)|