A pinch of black pepper is added to almost every type of recipe imaginable. Once used as currency and presented to the gods as a sacred offering, it is fortunate that this most popular of spices is available throughout the year.

Black pepper comes from the pepper plant, a smooth woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet in hot and humid tropical climates. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3 to 4 years and develop into berries known as peppercorns. Ground peppercorns produce the spice we call pepper.

Nutritional Profile

Black pepper is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin K, a very good source of copper and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, chromium, and calcium. Pepper became an important spice that catalyzed much of the spice trade.

Health Benefits

Improve Digestion and Promote Intestinal Health. Black pepper (Piper nigrum)stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body’s production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria, whose activities produce gas, irritation, and/or diarrhea or constipation.

How to Select and Store

Black pepper is available whole, crushed or ground into powder. To ensure best flavor, buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself in a mill just before adding to a recipe. Whole peppercorns should be heavy, compact and free of any blemishes.

Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing black pepper try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating black pepper may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C content.)

Related: The Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods, Herbs, & Spices That Prevent Chronic Illnesses

Black pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while ground pepper will stay fresh for about three months. Pepper can also be frozen although this will make its flavor more pronounced.

History

Native to India, pepper has played a very important role throughout history and has been a prized spice since ancient times. Since ancient Greece, pepper has held such high prestige that it was not only used as a seasoning but as a currency and a sacred offering. Pepper was used to both honor the gods and to pay taxes and ransoms.

The reason that pepper was so cherished is that it served important culinary purposes. Not only could its pungency spice up otherwise bland foods, but it could disguise a food’s lack of freshness, the latter being an especially important quality in the times before efficient means of preservation.

Nutrition Chart

Black Pepper, whole peppercorns | 2 tbs | 5.80 g | Calories: 15

NUTRIENTAMOUNTDRI/DV (%)
Vitamin K9.49 mcg11
Vitamin A1.59 mcg0
Vitamin E 0.06 mg0
Vitamin B10.01 mg1
Vitamin B20.01 mg 1
Vitamin B30.07 mg0
Vitamin B60.02 mg 1
Choline0.66 mg 0
Folate0.99 mcg0
Alpha-Carotene0.70 mcg
Beta-Carotene17.98 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin26.33 mcg
Lycopene1.16 mcg
Calcium25.69 mg3
Chromium0.93 mcg3
Copper0.08 mg9
Iron0.56 mg3
Magnesium9.92 mg2
Manganese0.74 mg37
Phosphorus9.16 mg1
Potassium77.08 mg2
Selenium0.28 mcg1
Sodium1.16 mg 0
Zinc0.07 mg0
Protein0.60 g1
Carbohydrates3.71 g 2
Fiber1.47 g6
Omega-3 Fatty Acids0.01 g0
Omega-6 Fatty Acids0.04 g0

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are for adults or children aged 4 or older, and are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.

Preparing and Cooking with Black Pepper

Add pepper that you have freshly ground in a mill at the end of the cooking process. Since it loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding it near the end will help to preserve its flavor.

The Healthiest Way of Cooking With Black Pepper read: Recipes.

Source: www.whfoods.com

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