Black pepper is known to one and all due to its day to day use as one of the most popular spice. Black pepper is rightly considered the “King of Spices” as judged from the volume of international trade, being the highest among all the spices.India, Brazil, Idonasia, Vietnam are the chief pepper producing countries. In India, Kerala is the main producer of pepper. Pepper is a woody climber, it may reach heights of 10 m (33 feet) by means of its aerial roots. Its broad, shiny green leaves are alternately arranged. The small flowers are in dense, slender spikes of about 50 blossoms each. The berry like fruits, or peppercorns, are about 5 mm (0.2 inch) in diameter. They become yellowish at maturity and bear a single seed. Their odour is penetrating and aromatic; the taste is hot, biting, and very pungent.
The plant requires a long rainy season, fairly high temperatures, and partial shade for best growth. Propagation is usually by stem cuttings, which are set out near a tree or a pole that will serve as a support. Pepper plants are sometimes interspersed in tea or coffee plantations. They begin bearing in 2 to 5 years and may produce for as long as 40 years.
The berries are picked when they begin to turn red. The collected berries are immersed in boiling water for about 10 minutes, which causes them to turn dark brown or black in an hour. Then they are spread out to dry in the sun for three or four days. The whole peppercorns, when ground, yield black pepper. White pepper is obtained by removing the outer part of the pericarp. The outer coating is softened either by keeping the berries in moist heaps for 2 or 3 days or by keeping them in sacks submerged in running water for 7 to 15 days, depending on the region. The softened outer coating is then removed by washing and rubbing or by trampling, and the berries are spread in the sun to dry. Whole white pepper can also be prepared by grinding off the outer coating mechanically. The flavor is less pungent than that of black pepper. Pepper contains up to 3 percent essential oil that has the aromatic flavor of pepper.
Generally 100 kg of fresh berries yield about 26-39kg of black pepper of commerce. Of course , the yield of pepper varies widely in different producing areas depending upon several factors such as elevation, temperature, distribution of rainfall, soil fertility, cultural practices, type or variety of pepper, and age of the pepper vine, etc. In India ,the yield varies from 110 to 335 Kg /Hectare(Av.251 kg/Ha)
Pepper has numerous uses including making medicines, curry powders .Dried pepper can be preserved for many years undamaged. Various varieties of pepper commonly used in Kerala are panniyur-1 ,Panniyoor –11, cheriakaniakadan,uthirankotta,karimunda, etc …
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