Food is all about taste, colour and flavour. Using herbs and spices expands your palette without the extra calories and in turn decreases the amount of salt, fat and sugar you use without sacrificing flavour.
A judicious pinch of pepper is sufficient to make a world of difference to many soups, stews, marinades and other sauces. A once rare spice that was synonymous to currency and gold coins (to pay taxes, private debts and ransoms, among other transactions) and offered to gods as a sacred offering is now popularly used all round the year globally. The two main reasons pepper was much sought after especially in the middle ages was
(1) it added spice to common, inexpensive food that was often bland
(2) It could mask stale or spoiled flavors, important when food preservation wasn’t easy.
Not for nothing, Black Pepper corns (Piper nigrum) was called as `King of spices’ or ‘Black Gold’.
Peppercorn is native to the tropical evergreen rain forest of the Malabar region (State of Kerala in South India) from where it spread to rest of the world through Indian and Arab traders
The amazing strong pungent flavor of fresh pepper is most fragrant when freshly milled and added just before serving as the volatile-oil `piperine’ is released (Extended cooking results in loss of these essential oils and there is loss of pungency)
Though from the same plant they are available as green, red, black & white pepper corns depending on what stage of maturity they were picked and further processing. Usually picked while they are half mature and red in color but later they are sun dried. This makes them shrivel and become black & hard. If they are harvested when they are still unripe we get green peppercorns. If the black peppercorns are soaked in brine and then de-skinned they give you the less piquant white pepper.
When you look at black peppers use from a culinary standpoint, the options are almost
endless. Right from some traditional usage, that include marinating meats with crushed peppercorns; spicing white sauce for au gratins and lasagnas, adding pepper to warm beverages such as tea, turmeric lathe, tomato or chicken soup, sprinkling on freshly cut fruit for a spicy kick; and grinding pepper into a bowl of olive oil with balsamic vinegar to create a dipping sauce for bread and vegetables are just a few examples.
Low in calories and contains iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, vitamins A and C, and other nutrients but it is mainly prized for its medicinal benefits.
10 main health benefits of Piperine Nigerum
Stimulates appetite – especially the Olfactory senses (sense of smell) and helps improve appetite.
Increases Nutrient absorption – enhances the bioavailability of various nutrients such as vitamins A and C, selenium, beta-carotene, and others, thereby improving your overall health. It improves the bioavailability of curcumin from turmeric.
Improves Digestion – help relieve digestive problems like indigestion, flatulence, constipation and bloating.
Helps weight loss – The outer layer of peppercorns has phytonutrients that help breakdown fat cells.
Helps clear Congestion of respiratory tract because of its anti microbial activity.
Combats Arthritis – due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It improves circulation and reduces pain & swelling of joints in between the fingers.
Fights cancer – particularly colon and breast cancer and works even better if taken in combination with turmeric
Prevents other diseases – like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Treats Teeth and Gum Problems
Acts as a mood elevator and prevents depression.