Malabar peppercorns are the real thing! Originating in the southwestern
coast of India known as the Malabar region of Kerala state, this mildly
pungent, aromatic spice has been used since ancient times to flavor food
in almost every part of the world. In India, there are records to show
that the spice has been used in cooking and traditional medicine for
thousands of years.
The pepper plant is a climbing vine that grows extensively in humid,
tropical conditions in rich, well-drained soil and is a hardy perennial.
The berries which grow in clusters along the vine are picked before
they are fully ripened or when a few in the cluster begin to change
color from green to orange. They are harvested and spread out to dry in
the sun naturally till they turn completely black and only then removed
from the stems. Hence they're also called black peppercorns. These may
differ in flavor and degree of pungency.
The most interesting thing about the Malabar peppercorn is that it has
had a huge impact on the course of world history. Trade routes were
established, kingdoms were discovered, lost or won, wars were fought,
entire civilizations were subjugated to colonial rule, it was used as an
alternate currency in some countries and it paved the way to
establishing the basis of many modern stock exchanges.
There are several reasons for the amazing popularity of this spice
throughout the ages. Initially it was assumed that pepper was used as a
preservative for meats but historical evidence shows that apart from
being one of the preservatives used, pepper was simply prized for its
own distinctive flavor. The ancient Egyptians used it to mask the odors
of a decomposing body during mummification, in Greece only the very
wealthy could afford it, the Romans used it as a staple seasoning, the
Goths used it as a ransom! In more recent times, pepper was used for its
medicinal qualities. It has properties that can cure a range of
conditions from constipation to earaches, insect bites to insomnia,
toothache to lung infections, common colds to heart disease, making it
indeed a miracle spice and for this reason, it's often known as Black
Malabar pepper is grown widely in the Tellicherry region of Kerala,
India. Here the optimum soil, humidity, weather, terrain and the
sun-angle contribute to the growth of the authentic Malabar pepper that
Vasco da Gama came in search of. Modern plants originated from three
main varieties: the Panniyur, Chettan and Karimunda.
The international pepper trade has its hub in Kochi, Kerala, India where
the Pepper Exchange deals with global pepper trade and is the only one
of its kind in the world and conducts millions of dollars worth of
business. Malabar pepper is a volatile stock and there are wide
fluctuations in the daily rate, making it a valuable investment.
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