Pepper, most widely used spice in the World

Also known as 'Black Gold,' pepper is a highly popular spice used to flavor food preparations and in medicines. It is said that Pepper is the most widely used spice in the world. It is the yield from a perennial vine, belonging to the family Piperaceae (Binomial name: piper nigrum). The plant is a native of the humid and rainy hills of the South Western mountains of India and widely cultivated in the state of Kerala. From sea level to a terrain of 1500 meters above MSL, it grows in temperatures between 10 to 40 degrees. It is now cultivated in countries of similar climatic pattern – Viet Nam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil as well as in China. And the fun is that it is not India, the land of its origin and where it is grown widely, but Viet Nam that tops in exports. India consumes a very large chunk of its produce, where as in Viet Nam they export the entire yield. In Kerala, the land of its birth, it is known as Kuru-mulaku. Milagu in Tamil, Menasu in Kannada, and Miriam in Telugu. Pepper has preservative value and therefore it is used by meat packers, in canning, pickling, and in baking. In seasoning of dishes it is used because it is good to adjust flavor. Dried leaves and stalks are used as a spice and in seasoning. Dried ground pepper forms a favorite presence in the European cuisine. Pepper side by side with salt can be seen in every dinner table almost all over the world. There are several products in which it is either a component or main ingredient. One such is mayonnaise in which goes white pepper. It is used in the production of pepper oil, oleoresin, pickled green pepper, dehydrated green pepper etc. In that pepper has analgesic anti-pyretic, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties, it is widely used in the preparation of medicines under the Ayurvedic and other systems of Indian medicine.

Etymology of the word 'pepper' would give interesting insights into the way the word came.:

Sanskrit from which the word originally derived : pippali

   Latin: piper                    Old English: pipor
   Dutch: peper                 German: pfeffer
   French: poivre

Now go to a dictionary. 'pepper' has many shades of meaning, including 'spirit'. 'Pep', 'peppiness'… Pep came first or pepper? Then you have black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, orange pepper, pink pepper, red pepper…  Different stages in its ripeness, in treatment like drying or keeping in preservatives, removing the skin, adding flavors…

Indian Pepper has been known to the outside world at least from 2000 years before Christ, according to literary references. Ancient Egyptians used the pepper from India for mummification of their dead, as is seen in the nostrils of the mummies kept in the pyramids and other places. Pepper finds its place in several other references made by travelers to India, including the Chinese, through various centuries of old. Though India is the country of its origin and the greatest exporter of it through continuous periods in history, Viet Nam is now the world's largest producer and exporter of pepper (82,000 tons according to an official statement for 2003.). Indonesia exports 67,000 tons, India 65,000 tons, Brazil 35,000 tons, and Malaysia 22,000 tons.