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History of Pepper

Posted by Hugh Anderson on

History of Pepper

Pepper is a spice that originated from southwest India and has been the world's most traded spice. Pepper grows on a flowering vine and the different colours (except pink) are variously aged peppercorns from the same plant. White pepper is the ripened fruit, green pepper is the dried unripe fruit whilst black pepper is the boiled then dried fruit. It appears within Greek and Roman literature and was a highly sought-after spice trading for large sums of money. Pliny the Elder complained that the pepper trade was draining the Roman Empire of 50m sesterces every year! The Southern Arabia traders fabricated stories around this spice in order to protect their monopoly and profitable business. Stories included monsters, clashing rocks and falling of the ends of the earth, who in their right mind would want to undertake such a perilous journey? In the mediaeval times Italian city states like Genoa and Venice started to trade with those using the Silk Road, however pepper remained the most expensive commodity and the terms 'peppercorn rent' and 'pepper expensive' came into being. It was the 'Golden era of discovery' that broke this strangle hold. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh opened new trade routes and it became more available to the everyday citizen. Giving someone a single peppercorn was the symbol of friendship and trust.

Pepper contains the compound limonene within it, a flavour also found in citrus and herbs. This is why it is a popular ingredient in both food and gin.

 


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