Piper nigrum Today's most popular spice, pepper, is so plentiful that we have become spoiled. In the 15th Century peppercorns were so rare that they were used in some places for currency. There are three basic varieties of pepper. Each dependent on how the pepper was picked and prepared. Green - Once the small white flowers of the Piper Nigrum have formed green berries in grape like clusters, they may be picked and stored in water, vinegar, or brine. This climbing vine is grown in India and Indonesia. Green peppercorns have a mild fresh flavor. If the green peppercorns are allowed to dry in the sun, they become hard and brittle and range in color from dark brown to black. Black peppercorns are the most common. They have a rich and spicy flavor. Most experts will say that Malabar peppercorns are the finest, with Tellicherry and Lampong not too far behind. Left on the vine to ripen they turn to red. These peppercorns are then soaked in water and the red shells taken off leaving a buff colored, smoother, softer peppercorn. White pepper has the hottest flavor sometimes with a hint of ginger. White pepper is often used in white or light colored prepared dishes where the presence of pepper might want to be hidden. While pepper is used the world over on meat and savory dishes, don't stop there. Pepper can be used, particularly white pepper, in cookies, cake, and fruit dishes. For an amazing taste try freshly ground black pepper on strawberries.
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