Monday, August 1, 2011


Pepper (Piper nigrum) is a popular spice in Black, White or Green under PIPERCEAE family. Malaysia is one of the countries producing pepper r especially in Sarawak. Varieties such as Semonggok Emas, Kuching Special and many others are planted for domestic and export market. The history of the spice trade is, above all, the history of pepper, the ‘King of Spices’. Pepper has been moving westward from India for 4,000 years. It has been used in trading as an exchange medium like money and, at times, has been valued so highly that a single peppercorn dropped on the floor would be hunted like a lost pearl. In classical times ‘tributes’ were paid in pepper, and both Attila the Hun and Alaric I the Visigoth demanded pepper as a substantial part of Rome’s ransom. Since the Middle Ages, pepper was the core of the European spice trade, with Genoa and Venice dominating the market. The Italian ‘pepperers’ monopoly of overland trade routes was the major determining factor in driving the search for an eastern sea route. This article I share information about pepper.

Spice Description
Pepper comes from several species of a vinous plant, the spice being the fruit, called peppercorns. Black pepper is the dried, unripe berry. The corns are wrinkled and spherical, about 5 mm (1/8 in) in diameter. This the most pepper produced in Sarawak with fresh and high quality for export market. Malabar and Tellicherry pepper are both considered top quality due to size and maturity, with only 10% of the largest corns being graded as Tellicherry. White pepper starts out the same as the black, but are allowed to ripen more fully on the vine. The outer shell is then removed by soaking the berries in water until the shell falls off, or are held under flowing spring water, yielding a whiter, cleaner pepper. Green pepper is from the same fruit but is harvested before they mature. Pink pepper, which is not a vinous pepper, comes from the French island of Reunion. Pink peppercorns have a brittle, papery pink skin enclosing a hard, irregular seed, much smaller than the whole fruit. Other type of product are Bouquet pepper that was best in aromatic and pungent. The flavour of Black pepper is very pungent and fiery with a hotness scale 0f 8 compare the White pepper is less pungent with hotness scale of 7. For the Green pepper is milder with a cleaner, fresher flavour with average hotness scale of 3.

Preparation and Storage
Pepper is best purchased whole, as freshly ground pepper is vastly superior to the ready ground powder. Whole peppercorns keep their flavour indefinitely but quickly lose its aroma and heat after it has been ground. Peppercorns are very hard but easily ground in a peppermill. Cracked pepper is the partially broken corns, crushed using a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Dried green peppercorns can be reconstituted for mashing into a paste by soaking in water. Peppercorns should be stored in airtight containers, away from sunlight.

Culinary Uses
Pepper is best ground directly on to food. With hot food it is best to add pepper well towards the end of the cooking process, to preserve its aroma. White pepper is used in white sauces rather than black pepper, which would give the sauce a speckled appearance. Green peppercorns can be mashed with garlic, cinnamon or to make a spiced butter or with cream to make a fresh and attractive sauce for fish. Pink peppercorns are called for in a variety of dishes, from poultry to vegetables and fish.

Attributed Medicinal Properties
As I was told by many friends in Sarawak during my tenure for 2 years there, pepper is a useful herb for many purposes. It claims to be Stomachic; carminative; aromatic stimulant; antibacterial; diaphoretic. Stimulates the taste-buds causing reflex stimulation of gastric secretions, improving digestion and treating gastro-intestinal upsets and flatulence. Pepper calms nausea and raises body temperature, making it valuable for treating fevers and chills. My wife used pepper in preparing selected meals with meats, fresh vegetable and ‘mee goreng kenduri’ for our special meal.

Plant Description and Cultivation
Pepper is a tropical and perennial climbing vine with aerial roots. I used to see in Kuching and Serian District where locals grow pepper as simple industry at the Longhouse area. Some of the growers are Ibans with advisory by DOA Sarawak. The vine can grow to over 30 feet (10m) but is commercially maintained at about 12 feet (4m). It has wide, glossy, green leaves and bears dense spikes of white flowers containing 50 blossoms each. The berries are green when unripe and turn red as they mature. To collect berries is a very labour intensive and tiring job. I experience to collect pepper berries in Serian for one hours but able to collect less than 600 grams. The special ladder used to pluck on the higher level berries up to 10 feet. Pepper needs well-drained humus-rich soil and a hot wet tropical climate. Plants can yield for up to forty years. Pepper is grown from cuttings in partial shade and run up trees or poles to support the vines. P. nigrum is native to south and east India and Cambodia. It is also cultivated in the East and West Indies and in other tropical Asian countries including the Malabar Coast. Colonial from England introduced pepper to Sarawak more than 500 years ago as a commercial commodities for local Sarawakians.

Other Names
Pepper that was in Black has various names used. In French: poivre, German: Pfeffer , Italian: pepe nero, Spanish: pimienta negra, Arabic: filfil, Indian: gol/kala,i, mir(i)ch(i), Indonesian: merica hitam, meritja, Lao: phik noi, Malay: lada hitam and in Thai: prik ki tai. Otherwise the pepper in White are called as in French: poivre blanc , German: Weisser Pfeffer, Italian: pepe bianco and in Spanish: pimienta blanca. The Green pepper are called in French: poivre vert, German: Gruner Pfeffer , Italian: pepe verde and Spanish: pimienta verde. I seldom see the pink pepper where they called as in French as poivre rose or in German: Blassroter Pfeffer, Italian: pepe rosa and Spanish: pimienta rosa.

M Anem
Ex- DOA Sarawak Senior Officer

1 comment:

  1. Sarawak Pfeffer
    Gourmet Sarawak Pfeffer gibt es viele, doch die feinsten aus aller Welt stammen sicherlich aus Indien. Wir stellen 3 Pfeffersorten vor, die es in sich haben.