There are several different
plants and ingredients commonly known as pepper
the chili pepper
(including the bell pepper)
several Asian spices
including 'pink' peppercorns and Szechuan pepper.
and lastly, black,
green and white peppers, which is what is commonly
used in the Western world for seasoning.
Whole unground pepper
berries are called peppercorns.
The black, white and
green peppers are actually the same berries (peppercorns)
harvested and processed at different stages of ripeness.
They are very similar in flavor and texture, with the main
difference being the color. Black pepper is generally used
when you want it to show up in the dish (especially in a
whole or 'cracked' form) and white pepper is invisible in
the finished product.
Black pepper is a
seasoning produced from the fermented, dried, unripe red
berries of the plant Piper nigrum. (The same fruit, when
unripe green, can be dried, or preserved in brine or
vinegar, to make green peppercorns; or when ripe, dried
and dehusked to make white peppercorns.)
It is one of the most
common spices in European cuisine and its descendants,
having been known and prized since antiquity due to its
strong flavor and its ability, critical during the Middle
Ages, to conceal the taste of partially rotten meat. It is
said that Alaric the Visigoth demanded from Rome a ransom
of gold, silver, and pepper.
Ground black pepper may
be found on nearly every dinner table in some parts of the
world, accompanied by its constant companion salt.
When used in cooking,
pepper added at the beginning of a recipe makes the whole
recipe taste peppery. When added at the end of a recipe
parts of the recipe taste peppery and other parts don't
because the pepper won't be evenly distributed among the
Grinding pepper releases
flavorful volatile oils that evaporate after time, so the
full flavor of pepper is obtained when it freshly ground
onto food at the end of cooking or after serving.