Black Pepper / by kevin murray

The two most commonly used spices are salt and black pepper, in which black pepper is known as the king of all spices.  Because of the prevalence of both salt and pepper in today's society and their inexpensive pricing, we take for granted that both salt and pepper are easily obtainable, but that certainly wasn't true a few hundred years ago.  Whereas for salt, it is fairly abundant throughout the world through mining, evaporation of seawater, and salt beds; pepper is a far different story.  Specifically, black pepper was historically indigenous only to a southwestern province of India.  Incredibly, it is because of black pepper, that Columbus was able to receive the funding for his voyages to discover a western route to India in order to obtain this very pepper, in the hopes that by so doing, he would decrease the price for pepper and save Spain a considerable amount of money by negating the need for the "silk road", the historic ground transportation used for this important spice and other trade items. Unfortunately, for Columbus, and for Spain, he was unable to discover black pepper in the new world, but instead brought back the capsicum pepper which although useful as a spice, was not the "black gold" of the real black pepper plant


Pepper is derived from seed berries of the black plant vine that is now grown in several countries, but was originally native to just India.  Pepper is known to us as a flavor-enhancing spice, but it also has been used for medicinal purposes as it aids too in the digestion of foods by increasing secretions, along with its known antioxidant and antibacterial attributes.  Pepper has become commonplace in today's culinary world, in which its ubiquity in cooking and recipes is nearly mandatory, and unlike salt it doesn't contain any meaningful amounts of sodium, so that consequently its usage has little or no deleterious effects upon the body, in fact, pepper is effective in helping to reduce constipation, and aiding in the removal of toxins from the body.


People have a tendency to forget, or to take for granted, the importance of trade and exploration in order to receive the benefits, and the low-cost, of items that we assume have always been there or are readily available.  Wars have been fought over essential minerals and items, monies and great exertions have been made in order to find them, to replicate them, or even to steal them.  Black pepper is one of those spices in which all of the above has occurred and with good reason.  It is the master of all spices and is an essential ingredient for any spice cabinet, for food, and for your health in general. 


Edward Gibbon stated inThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ that black pepper was: a favorite ingredient of the most expensive Roman cookery“.  Now, rich or poor, we too are able to reap its multitude of benefits, most of us, though, clueless of the path it took to get to our palates.