Yes, black pepper contains many health benefits! In fact, quite a few! The everyday spice is packed with vitamins, minerals and a vast array of ‘good for you’ medicinal value that can’t be ignored. Just a pinch of this amazing spice each day will have you on the road to better health.
Black pepper is mostly renowned for helping the digestive track and the intestinal system. But it’s also beneficial for:
- The common cold
- Dental disease
- Improper blood circulation
- Heart disease
- Pyorrhea (gum disease)
- Muscular strains
- Respiratory disorders
Because of its antibacterial properties, black pepper is also used to preserve food. It’s a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. As well, black pepper is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Pepper spirit is used in several beauty and medicinal products. Additionally, pepper oil is utilized as an Ayurveda massage oil for certain herbal and beauty treatments. Pepper is also used in making Indian chai to remedy headaches, the common cold, coughs and a sore throat.
Where Does Black Pepper Come From?
Black pepper is native to south India where it is widely cultivated. It is also grown in many tropical regions. Presently, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, generating about 34% of the world’s black pepper crop as of 2008.
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the Piperaceae family. It is cultivated for its fruit that is dried then utilized as a seasoning or spice. The dried fruit is known as a peppercorn and is about 0.20 in (5 mm) in diameter. The fruit itself is a dark red in color when fully mature. The stone fruit or drupe has an outer flesh that surrounds a single shell or seed.
A Valued Ayurvedic Medicine
In India, black pepper is used for numerous medicinal purposes. Here are a few recipes:
- Mix a cup of warm water with 1 drop of black pepper oil. Gargle the mixture to help treat sore throat and throat infections.
- A cup of warm milk with dash of black pepper and 1 pinch of turmeric powder for treating chest congestion, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, headache and other cold symptoms.
- To a steam diffuser, add about 2 drops black pepper oil for congestion. Also rub your throat and chest with a vaporizing ointment: add 2 drops of black pepper oil to your usual vaporizing ointment. The ointment helps treat the common cold, the flu, blocked nasal passages, sinusitis, chest congestion and headache.
On the market you can find green, white and black pepper. Green pepper is the dried unripe fruit. White pepper is fully ripened on the vine. Black pepper is the cooked and dried unripe fruit. As well, black pepper is sometimes dried in the sun instead of cooked.
Compared to white pepper, black pepper is a slightly hotter in flavor and more aromatic. The flavor of black pepper is even more enhanced if you grind it as you use it. In fact, a true culinary advocate will always use fresh peppercorns and grind them as needed.
White pepper is generally used in recipes that are light-colored such as a white sauce, cream soup or mashed potatoes. It is basically used for aesthetic reasons as opposed to black pepper. On the other hand, I find that black pepper and light-colored foods have a nice contrast. I suppose it’s all in preference.
White pepper has a milder flavor than black pepper. It is generally ground into a fine powder, unlike its counterpart that is quite course. Some people claim that white pepper tastes hotter than black but not as complex in flavor. Also, black pepper is spicier when you first taste it. Whereas, the spicy taste of white pepper lingers. There is also a somewhat sweet version of white pepper from India called Shada golmorich (Bengali), Safed Golmirch (Hindi) or Safed Golmirch (Punjabi). Additionally, in Europe white pepper is used more than black pepper. Whereas, in the United States, black pepper is used more often than white.
Green pepper has a sharp and crisp flavor with a lively aroma. It is a lot different than black pepper. It also has a stimulating and dynamic bite and is an important ingredient in many French dishes.
Pink and Sichuan peppercorns are not true peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are soft and fragile berries with a sweet-sharp flavor. Sichaun pepper comes from the berry of the mountain ash tree. It has a pungent, cold flavor instead of the typical heat of a peppercorn.
White pepper is used in many Cantonese soups and sauces. Some feel white pepper has a “hotter” flavor but not as complex as black. It is the perfect pepper for color contrast in certain foods. Just use less white pepper so that it does not dominate a specific dish. Also, make sure to taste the white pepper before deciding to use it. The flavor really is a lot different than black pepper.
Green pepper is spicy, fresh and has a bright aroma. It is used in numerous Asian dishes for its unique color. If you happen to find fresh green pepper, use it as soon as possible because it decays quickly if not preserved. Sometimes the green pepper drupes are pickled.
Grilled Black Pepper Tofu Recipe
This is an absolutely amazing dish! Grilled Black Pepper Tofu is in fact, extremely delicious! And if you’re crunched for time, this is the perfect dish to make! Remarkably, people often comment on how you must have slaved in the kitchen in order to create this stunning dish. The presentation looks like an authentic meal right out of a top notch Chinese restaurant.
This simple dish has a wonderful contrast of black pepper, red pepper and tofu. Just be warned, it is a bit fiery. However, you can moderate the fire by reducing the quantity of peppers. Just make sure that you use fresh peppercorns for ultimate results. Enjoy!
- 2 pounds firm tofu
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying
- Arrowroot to dust tofu (see notes*)
- ¼ cup butter
- 12 small shallots, sliced thin
- 8 fresh mild red chili peppers, sliced thin
- 12 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 TBLS fresh ginger, chopped
- 6-7 TBLS tamari or soy sauce, to taste
- 2 TBLS raw sugar or honey
- 5 TBLS coarsely crushed fresh black peppercorns, to taste
- 14 small green onions, cut into 1 ¼ inch sections
- Pour oil into a large frying pan or wok. The oil should come up the sides ¼ inches. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking
- Slice the tofu into large cubes, about 1 x 1 inch. Dry the tofu thoroughly and place in a large bowl. Add arrowroot to cover all pieces
- Add the tofu to the heated oil. Fry the tofu in batches so they do not stew in the wok. Turn the tofu as needed. The tofu should have a thin crust and be golden in color. When done, place the tofu on a towel to absorb extra oil. Repeat until all the tofu is cooked
- Remove the oil and all the sediment from the wok. On low to medium heat melt butter then add shallots, chilies, garlic and ginger. Stirring occasionally, sauté for about 15 minutes or until the mixture has turned shiny and are thoroughly soft. Add the tamari and honey or sugar. Stir in black pepper, to taste
- Add the fried tofu to the sauce mixture for approximately one minute. Stir in the green onions
- Serve hot with steamed rice or noodles.
- Arrowroot is like a healthy cornstarch. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein. It is the same constituency and equal portions are used. Personally, I removed cornstarch from my cupboard over three decades ago. Cornstarch is very starchy and today it often contains GMO’s.
Discovering the Different Types of Pepper
As you know, there are a wide variety of peppers to tantalize your taste buds. However, finding fresh peppercorns may be a daunting task. And of course, for the ultimate meal you want to use fresh peppercorns precisely when you need them.
Believe it or not, both Amazon and eBay have a fabulous selection of organic peppercorns at a reasonable price:
Black pepper drupels: Ripening Pepper Spikes On Vine via photopin (license)
Peppercorns: Peppercorns via photopin (license)
Peppercorns in grinder: peppered via photopin (license)
Black pepper plant: Pepper Growing via photopin (license)
Black, white & green peppercorns: P1140013.sm via photopin (license)
A Little Saffron: Black Pepper Tofu (in cast iron skillet)
Ottolenghi: Black Pepper Tofu (in skillet with blue background)