Tellicherry black pepper is the most widespread and appreciated variety of black pepper in Europe , it takes its name from the Thalassery region in the state of Kerala in India . The salient feature that distinguishes it from other types of black pepper is the width of the grains (about 5mm in diameter) this large size allows a greater concentration of piperine in the pulp and therefore is rather spicy.

The plant and the fruit

The pipper nigrum belonging to the botanical family of the pipperaceae is a woody liana (therefore a climbing plant that starts from the ground and climbs on the stem of other plants) that grows up to 4 meters . It has 5 to 10 cm long leaves and sessile flowers (attached to the main stem without a peduncle). The fruit is a berry containing a single seed which is green at first and then becomes red when ripe.

How to get black pepper

As mentioned, the natural fruit is first green and then red, black pepper, white pepper and green pepper all derive from the same plant and are obtained through different procedures. Black pepper is obtained from the harvested drupe that is not yet ripe. The fruit is first cooked briefly in hot water, this process has two purposes: to clean the fruit and prepare it for drying. In fact, the heat by breaking the cell walls accelerates the work of the enzymes responsible for the browning of the fruit. The drupes are then left to dry, in the sun or in a car, for several days, the peel darkens until it becomes black and wrinkles. In some estates the separation and cleaning process is carried out entirely by hand and the fruits are left to dry in the sun without "scalding" them first.

Origin and cultivation

Black pepper is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. We know that it was cultivated in Malaysia and Thailand but historical sources agree that even in ancient times it was the region that is now known as Kerala that supplied the world (at the time it was the seat of the Chera dynasty). In ancient times, pepper was a very precious spice, so much so that it was sometimes called "black gold". It therefore remained a spice for the rich until the opening of new trade routes with the explorations of the sixteenth century, only then did it begin to spread on the tables of ordinary people.

Properties and nutritional characteristics of Tellicherry black pepper

It doesn't make much sense to dwell on the nutritional properties of pepper for quite obvious reasons, if you consume tiny quantities, however in a cooking spoon (about 6 grams) there are decent quantities of iron, manganese and vitamin K. In traditional oriental medicine pepper are attributed a series of properties, it would be useful as a remedy for: constipation, insomnia, oral abscesses, sunburn, toothache and more. In reality, however, modern scientific studies have not yet definitively confirmed anything. However, it is believed that piperine favors the absorption of various elements, including: selenium, vitamin B12, potassium and beta-carotene , although studies are still few. Those suffering from gastritis, ulcers or hemorrhoids should avoid or limit the consumption of pepper, as well as many other foods that have an irritating power.

Curiosities about pepper

As mentioned in ancient times pepper was an expensive commodity in great demand, in a passage Pliny the Elder defines a real bloodletting by India to the Roman coffers the annual amount of imports of pepper. Currently, when it comes to quantity, the largest pepper producer in the world is Vietnam, but the large grains of black pepper from Kerala remain the most popular.

Black peppercorns have been found in the tombs of some pharaohs. One of the reasons that prompted Portugal to seek alternative routes to India was to remove the monopoly of control of the pepper trade directed to Europe from the city-states of Venice and Genoa. The essential oil obtained from pepper is used in massages (diluted with a carrier oil) and appreciated for its anti-microbial activities and for its ability to stimulate blood circulation. Hippocrates the father of medicine recommended it combined with vinegar and honey as a remedy for menstrual pain, but as explained in the paragraph on the properties of pepper there are no scientific studies that confirm these beliefs. A negative belief to be dispelled about the traditional use of pepper is that it was used, as many think, to mask the taste of meat and fish that have gone bad. Seen how muchit was expensive this spice seems really unlikely such a use.

Black pepper in the kitchen

Pepper is now very popular as a condiment all over the world, you can often find it on the table together with salt in the cafeterias, although it should be remembered that in reality the pepper should be ground at the moment use because ground pepper quickly loses its aromatic properties, in practice the spiciness remains but all the other aromas are lost, if you really have to grind it first, it is better to choose a coarse grind that helps to keep the aromatic characteristics longer . However, especially in Asian cuisine, there is no shortage of recipes in which pepper is a central ingredient.

Tellicherry black pepper crab

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 1 kg of crab
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh coriander
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 white onion
  • Ginger to taste
  • 100 gr of soy sauce
  • 125 grams of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 10 gr of Tellicherry black pepper

1) Combine in a large bowl a mixture of: coriander, garlic, onions and ginger.

2) Add the soy sauce and honey and mix thoroughly.

3) Add the crabs, cover and leave to rest for about 1 hour, stirring often.

4) Coarsely grind the black pepper in a coffee grinder or mash it with a rolling pin.

5) Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add the crabs and the marinade and two tablespoons of ground pepper.

6) Stir often until the crabs start smoking for about 5 minutes.

7) Sprinkle the crabs with the remaining pepper and mix thoroughly.

8) Serve in individual bowls with the cooking liquid.


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