Piper nigrum - an exotic botanical name for what most of us think of as run-of-the-mill black pepper. But the truth is that black pepper is only ubiquitous because it has such universal appeal as a seasoning. What a lot of folk may not know is that its also a boon to our health.
The dried fruit of the piper nigrum is called a peppercorn. It doesnt become pepper until its ground. FYI: The uncooked, unripened, dried fruit becomes green pepper. The cooked, dried, and unripened fruit becomes black pepper. Ripened fruit seeds are ground into what we call white pepper.
Pepper was originally grown in India, Sumatra, Madagascar, Malaysia, Thailand, and elsewhere in southern Asia. As it traversed the globe, it became one of the most sought after commodities on earth - a sign of wealth and power; and a coveted prize in economic trade wars. It was used in ancient Egypt as part of the mummification process. In ancient and Medieval Europe it was traded as currency to pay taxes and to honor pagan gods.
It was also a popular traditional folk remedy for a plethora of ills. From constipation to insomnia. From liver ailments to tooth decay. Sunburn, heart disease, and sore throats - black pepper has been used to treat them all. Conventional wisdom also supports the claim that it inhibits the formation of intestinal gas.
It promotes both digestion and urination. And it helps you slim down by stimulating the breakdown of fat cells and by giving you energy to get going and keep moving. Black pepper is not only a good source of fiber; it contains copper, chromium, calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin K, and other valuable nutrients and phytochemicals.
No doubt youre familiar with all the dishes to which a dash of black pepper can add zip and zing. Meat lovers adorn their steaks with it. And vegans use cracked peppercorns along with lemon juice and olive oil to make a lively salad dressing. Just remember to store it in an airtight container to preserve its freshness. Keep a peppermill handy and youll find that black pepper isnt so run-of-the-mill after all.