Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (dried ripe seeds).
Black pepper is native to south India, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Currently Vietnam is the world's largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world's Piper nigrum crop as of 2008.
Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity for both its flavour and as a medicine. Black pepper is the world's most traded spice. It is one of the most common spices added to European cuisine and its descendants. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine. It is ubiquitous in the industrialized world, often paired with table salt.
Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe drupes of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the pepper, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The drupes are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn. On some estates, the berries are separated from the stem by hand and then sun-dried without the boiling process.
Once the peppercorns are dried, pepper spirit & oil can be extracted from the berries by crushing them. Pepper spirit is used in famous beverages like Coca-Cola and many medicinal and beauty products. Pepper oil is also used as an ayurvedic massage oil and used in certain beauty and herbal treatments.
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