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Pepperpiper nigrum

From An Herbalist in the Kitchen

Illustration of Peppercorns

(l to r: freeze-dried green pepper, black pepper, long pepper, cubeb pepper)

Other Common or Ethnic Names

  • Black Pepper, White Pepper, Pepper Plant, Vine Pepper
  • Arabic: Bhar, Filfil, Filfil Aswad
  • Brazil: Pimienta do Reino
  • Burma/Myanmar: Nayukon, Nga-youk-kuan
  • China: Hu-chiao, Hu Jiao Li, Woo Jiu
  • Denmark: Hvid Peber, Peber
  • East Timor: Pimenta
  • Estonia: Must Pipar
  • Ethiopia: K'undo Berbere
  • Finland: Pippuri, Mustapippuri, Valkopippuri, Viherpippuri
  • France: Poivre, Poivre Blanc, Poivre Noir, Poivre Vert
  • Germany: Gruner Pfeffer, Pfeffer, Piper, Schwarzer Pfeffer, Weisser Pfeffer
  • Greece: Piperi, Piperia
  • Hungary: Borso
  • Iceland: Graenn Pipar, Hvitur Pipar, Pipar, Svartur Pipar
  • India: Gammiris, Gola Maricha, Golmarich, Gol Mirch, Gol Mirich, Gulki, Jaluk, Kala Mirchi, Kali Marich, Kali Mirich, Kali Mirch, Kali Miri, Kalomarich, Kalomirich, Kirshnan, Krishnadi, Kuru-mulagu, Marichan, Menasu, Milagoo, Miris, Miriyalu, Molagu, Mooloo, Savyamu, Vella
  • Indonesia: Lada, Lada Hitam, Lada Putih, Merica, Merica Hijau, Merica Hitam, Merica Putih, Meritja
  • Iran: Abeeyad, Philphili
  • Iraq: Felfel Aswad (black), Felfel Asmar (white)
  • Israel: Pilpel, Pilpel Lavan, Pilpel Shachor, Pilpel Yarok
  • Italy: Pepe, Pepe Bianco, Pepe Nero, Pepe Verde
  • Japan: Kosho
  • Laos: Phik Noi, Phil Noi
  • Malaysia: Lada, Lada Hitam, Lada Hijau, Lada Putih
  • Mexico: Pimienta, Pimienta Blanca (white), Pimienta Negra (black)
  • Morocco: Elbezar
  • Netherlands: Peper, Witte Peper, Zwarte Peper
  • Nigeria: Ada, Ivere, Oziza
  • Norway: Pepper
  • Philippines: Paminta
  • Poland: Pieprz
  • Portugal: Pimenta, Pimenta Branca, Pimenta-do-reino, Pimenta Preta, Pimenta Verde
  • Romania: Piper
  • Russia: Byely Pjerets, Chyorny Pjerets, Pjerets, Zelyony Pjerets
  • Spain: Pimienta Blanca, Pimienta Negra
  • Sri Lanka: Gammiris
  • Swahili: Pilipili
  • Sweden: Gronpeppar, Peppar, Svartpeppar, Vitpeppar
  • Thailand: Cha Plu, Prik Thai, Prik Thai Khiaowan (green peppercorns)
  • Turkey: Biber, Karabiber
  • Vietnam: Hat-trieu, Trieu

Related Species

  • Piper aduncum: Gusanillo (Spain); Higuillo, Wild Pepper
  • Piper angustifolium: Herba Matico, Mateco, Matica, Matico, Yerba Matico (Spain). (also known as Artanthe elongata)
  • Piper auritum: Acuyo, Candela de Ixote, Hierba Santa, Hoja de Anis y Momo, Hoja Santa, Santilla de Comer, Tlamapaquelite, Tlanepa, Yerba Santa, Yerba Santa Acuyo (Mexico); Anisillo, Hoja de Ajan, Hoja de Anis, Hoja de la Estrella, Hierba Santa, Hoja de Santamaria, Santamaria, Santilla de Comer (Costa Rica); Bulath (Sri Lanka); Matarro (Honduras); Cordoncillo (Spain); Mexicanischer Blattpfeffer (Germany); Santa Maria (El Salvador); Mexican Pepper Leaves, Sacred Pepper, Root Beer Plant. Also known, botanically, as Piper sanctum.
  • Piper betle: Betel Leaves, Betle Pepper, Paan (India); Phluu (Thailand)
  • Piper cubeba: Cabe Java (Indonesia); Cubeba, Cubebe, Kababat (Iraq); Cubebes, Poivre Aqueue, Poivre du Java (France); Cubebe, Cubebepeper (Netherlands); Cubera (Mexico); Dikiy Pjerets, Kubeba (Russia); Javanischer Pfeffer, Kubebenpfeffer, Schwanzpfeffer, Stielpfeffer (Germany); Kabab-chini, Kankol, Tadamiri, Thippli, Tokamiriyalu (India); Kamukus (Indonesia); Kebbaba (Algeria); Kabebba (Morocco); Kubebapeppar (Sweden); Kubeebapipar (Estonia); Cubeb Pepper, Java Peppercorn, Javanese Pepper, Tailed Pepper. Cubeb Pepper was known to apothecaries as Fructus cubebae.
  • Piper darienense: Duermeboca (Panama)
  • Piper excelsum: Kawakawa, New Zealand Peppertree
  • Piper guinense: Aschantipfeffer, Clusiuspfeffer, Falscher Kubebenpfeffer, Guineapfeffer (Germany); Poivre du Kissi (France); Ashanti Pepper, Benin Pepper, Clusius Pepper, False Cubeb Pepper, Guinea Cubebs. Also known as Piper Clusii and Piper guineense.
  • Piper interitum: Tetsi
  • Piper longum: Balinesischer Pfeffer, Bengalischer Pfeffer, Jaborandi-Pfeffer, Langer Pfeffer, Stangenpfeffer (Germany); Bi Ba (China); Cabé Bali (Indonesia); Chanchala, Darfilfil, Hippali, Magha, Pimpali, Pipali, Pipara, Pipli, Pipoli, Pipool, Pippali, Pipul, Thippali, Tippili, Tippli, (India); Dar Felfel (Morocco); Felfel Daraz (Iraq); Langpeppar (Sweden); Langwerpige Peper (Netherlands); Pikk Pipar (Estonia); Poivre Long (France); Timiz (Ethiopia); Balinese Pepper, Bengal Pepper, Indian Long Pepper, Jaborandi, Jaborandi Pepper, Long Pepper. (May be the same species as Mountain Long Pepper, Piper sylvaticum)
  • Piper lolot: La Lat, La Lot, Lo Lot (Vietnam); Lolot
  • Piper marginatum: Aniseto (Dominican Republic); licorice scented.
  • Piper ornatum: Celebes Pepper
  • Piper palmeri: Matico (Mexico); Matico Pepper
  • Piper retrofractum: Cabe Merah (Indonesia); Java Long Pepper, Javanese Long Pepper (sometimes listed as Piper officinarum) indigenous in Malaysia.
  • Piper sarmentosum: Bo La Lot (Vietnam); Cha Plu (Thailand); Daun Kadok (Malaysia); Phak I Leut (Laos); Betel Leaf, Wild Betel Leaf
  • Piper tuberculatum: Cordoncillo, Cordoncillo Blanco (El Salvador); Pimienta Longa (Mexico)

Growth Habits

Tropical vine
Origin: Southern India and Ceylon
Range: Old World Tropics

Culinary Uses

This is the only true pepper. Black Pepper is made from the dried unripe fruits. The green berries are allowed to ferment, encouraging the growth of a fungus, Glomerella cingulata, which provides the black color and develops latent flavors in the berries. The berries are then dried, producing the characteristically shriveled, wrinkled appearance. If the berry is allowed to ripen, but the skin (pericarp) is rubbed off before drying, the resulting product is White Pepper. The primary reason for choosing White Pepper for a dish is its color (or rather, its lack of color). It has some of the heat (from active ingredient, Piperine) of Black Pepper, but the aromatic properties that distinguish Black Pepper from other sources of culinary heat seem to reside in the pericarp. Pepper is used with fish, meats (roasts, sausages, and of course, Steak au Poivre) and salad dressings. It is delicious on fresh strawberries.

Lampong Pepper, from Indonesia, is the most common variety of Black Pepper in use in the United States--with some competition from Penang Pepper and Singapore Pepper. Alleppi Pepper, Mangalore and Tellicherry Pepper are higher grades of Pepper from India -- their higher cost is justified by their more complex and aromatic scent. Other varieties of note include Pepper from Madagascar, Siam (Thailand) and Saigon (Vietnam) -- note that out-dated place-names are still used to identify these products.

Most White Pepper is made from Muntock Pepper, a variety grown on Banka, an island near Sumatra. Sarawak Pepper is used to a lesser extent. It is grown in northern Borneo.
Green Peppercorns are also harvested in unripe condition, but are pickled, either in brine or vinegar, or are freeze-dried or dehydrated. This prevents the darkening fermentation that strips Black Pepper of the faintly resinous quality that the Green Peppercorns retain. This slightly piney taste is especially appealing with game, such as venison or duck, or with rich meats like lamb. For this reason they often appear in pates.

Black Pepper and, possibly Ashanti Pepper, are among the vast and shifting list of ingredients in Ethiopia's Berbere. In Morocco, it is included in the spice mixture called "La Kama," commonly used in soups and stews. In Persian cooking, Black Pepper is occasionally included in the spice mixture, Advieh. It is one of the ingredients in the Iraqi spice mixture, Boharat.
Ashanti Pepper, Piper guineense, is said to be milder than Black Pepper, Piper nigrum. It is used in Western Africa just as Black Pepper is used, plus its leaves are used to season soups, and ashes from the burning of the plant are used a salt substitute.

A drink made from the roots of Piper methylisticum is used in political and religious rituals in Micronesia. The bitter, non-alcoholic, but apparently euphoria-inducing, drink is prepared by the women, who chew the roots before spitting them into coconut milk. The finished, alkaloid-laced, brew is used only by the men during tightly controlled ceremonies.

Pertsovka is a Russian vodka (a form of Nastoika) flavored with hot Chiles and Cubeb Pepper. Cubebs are also used in Morocco as an ingredient in Ras el Hanout. It has a slightly numbing heat, and a long-lasting bitter finish.

Ground White Pepper is used, in combination with other spices and salt, in the French seasoning called Sel Epice. Without the salt, White Pepper is used in Quatre Epices. Both seasoning mixtures are essential to French charcuterie.

"Italian Seasoning" is a name for several different mixtures of herbs and spices that are sold commercially. They often contain Pepper.

Molho Brasiliero, "Brazilian Sauce," is a kind of green salsa made with Black Pepper, lime juice and other spices and herbs.

Piper longum is generally used in pickling or in the North African Ras el Hanout, although it was preferred over Black Pepper by the Romans. It has a more resinous flavor, and a heat that affects the back of the throat.

Many cheeses have more than a passing acquaintance with Black Pepper. The Belgian Vacheloo is flavored with Pepper, while the soft, triple-cream Princ' Jean Met Peper is rolled in it. England has a soft cheese log rolled in Pepper as well; it has the very French-sounding name of Roubiliac. The English also have Week-ender (flavored with Lemon Pepper, as well as Chives, Garlic and Parsley). Other British cheeses containing Pepper are the Stilton-like Vulscombe (which also contains Garlic and herbs) and the Gouda-like Walda (which is flavored with Green Peppercorns). Sussex Slipcote is a soft, Boursin-like, cheese, sold in boxes, that is available flavored either with Garlic, crushed Black Pepper or with a mixture of herbs.

Other Pepper-laced cheeses from the British Isles include Kilshanny (from County Clare, in Ireland), Ballindalloch (a Scottish goat cheese containing Black Pepper and Caraway Seeds) and St. Finan's (a hard cheese made from sheep's milk in Scotland that sometimes contains cracked Peppercorns). The Welsh have their Cadern (a Cheddar-like cheese flavored with Port and Black Pepper) and Pant-Ys-Gawn (a Boursin-like fresh cheese, redolent of Black Pepper, Chives and Garlic).

The French, who probably produce and consume more varieties of cheese than any other culture, have not neglected Black Pepper. Boulette de Cambai is a fresh cheese containing Parsley, Pepper, Tarragon and Chives. Boursin, of course, is famous as a mass-produced triple-cream cheese, available in either a mantle of cracked Peppercorns, or flavored with Garlic and an assortment of herbs. Other Pepper-covered French cheeses include Pelardon, and occasionally, Brie. Bougnat, sometimes called Poivre d'Auvergne, is only seasoned with Pepper. Dauphin, or Thiérache, is an ancient cheese from Flanders that is seasoned with Black Pepper, Cloves, Parsley and Tarragon. Gapron, Gaperon or Le P'Ail are relatively low-fat cheeses made with Black Pepper and Garlic. The Netherlands uses Black Pepper in some of its Edams and Goudas (Pompadour is one of these Gouda-like cheeses). In Italy, whole Peppercorns are sprinkled throughout the body of the cheese called Majocchino.

The leaves of Piper angustifolium are used in commercial flavorings.

Piper auritum's leaves are said to smell like Sarsaparilla, and are used to season Tamales in Costa Rica.The berries of Piper auritum, smelling like Cinnamon and Anise, are used as a condiment.

The leaves of Piper betle get their name from their use: they are chewed with Betel Nuts, Areca Catechu. (see Comments under Acacia).

The large spicy, Licorice/Nutmeg/Black Pepper flavored leaves of Piper sanctum are used in herbal teas. They are also used as a seasoning for egg dishes, fish, salsas (such as mole verde) and tamales.

White Pepper contains Pinenes, b-Caryophyllene, d-Limonene, Piperidine, Piperine and L-a-Phellandrene.

Black Pepper is the same, only substituting Camphor for L-a-Phellandrene, and adding Chavicine.

Cubeb Pepper contains b-Cubebene (up to 22,000 ppm), Copæne (up to 20,800 ppm), Cubebol (up to 20,000 ppm), d-Cadinene (up to 17,600 ppm), and a-Cubebene (up to 14,000 ppm).

Long Pepper contains more Piperine than Black Pepper, plus several related Piperine compounds.

Piper methysticum contain Benzoic Acid, Bornyl Cinnamate and Cinnamic Acid.

Piper tuberculatum's spicy leaves are used as food wrappers (as grape leaves are in the Middle East) in Thailand.

Other Uses

At one time, it seemed unlikely that the Kava-Kava ritual would catch on among trendy politically-correct thrill-seekers in The United States. However, there is an easier way to indulge in Kava-Kava. It is now on the market, in pill form, wherever alternative medications are sold.

Masho-Hara and Yauardi-Hena are names for snuffs made from varying Piper species. Piper interitum is used to make a snuff that is, not surprisingly, called Tetsi.

Essential oils and oleoresins from Pepper are used in the perfume industry.


The ancient Romans have a reputation that includes many kinds of excess, and their culinary attitudes were not exceptional in this regard. The dinner with Trimalchio, from The Satyricon of Petronius was, of course a joke -- but without an element of truth, no satire is possible. Some historians have speculated that Romans suffered from exposure to high levels of lead from their plumbing and that the intensely-flavored dishes they preferred were necessary palliatives for their poisoned palates.

It seems unlikely that a large enough segment of the population could have had such high levels of lead in their systems that it affected their sense of taste, and it seems even more remote that their individual affliction altered the collective taste of the Empire. Perhaps the wealthy Romans who could afford indoor plumbing were the very people who set the standards for gastronomic excellence, exerting disproportionate influence on their culture. Their illness affected their taste, but their prestige affected their culture.

Chili Pepper (q.v.) is not related in any way. It is a Capsicum, related to Bell Peppers, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Eggplant. They are called "Pepper" because of wishful thinking on the part of one Christopher Columbus. Due to a small error in calculation (approximately eight thousand miles), he thought he was on the other side of the globe--where true Pepper was, and is, grown.

Pink Peppercorns are not related to Pepper, either. They are Schinus terbinthifolius (q.v.).

Mignonette is a chef's term for freshly cracked Black Pepper. It should not be confused with Mignonette, Reseda odorata (q.v.). "Bhar" is Arabic for Allspice as well as Pepper.

Of all the complaints from people who do not care for spicy (read: HOT) foods, the most common is that it will destroy the stomach, or stomach-lining, of habitual eaters. No medical or scientific evidence has been found to confirm these wild fears, at least as far as the much hotter Capsicums are concerned. Black Pepper, however, has been implicated in some ulceration of stomach-linings.

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