The Mighty Peppercorn: Nothing to Sneeze At

By Paula Detwiller

Salt and pepper just naturally go together, right? And yet, salt seems to get all the headlines: sea salt, Kosher salt, low-salt foods…  Isn’t it time we heard some news about pepper?

In fact, November is the perfect time to pepper our conversation: it’s National Pepper Month! To honor the occasion, we’ve compiled some Fun Facts that may surprise you.

Did You Know?

  • Peppercorns are actually berries from a plant (Piper nigrum) that originated in the rain forests of India and spread throughout the world. Once peppercorns are harvested and dried, they can be ground into the fine powder we pour into our pepper shakers.
  • The most widely traded spice in the world, pepper was once called “black gold” and used as a form of currency.
  • Black pepper’s strong spicy taste comes from essential oils such as piperine, which has been used since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory properties. Piperine is why pepper makes us sneeze. It irritates nerve endings inside the nose, and the next thing you know, “ahh-CHOO!”
  • Peppercorns are rich in antioxidants such as Vitamins A and C. They also contain many flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants, which help the body remove harmful free radicals and protect us from cancer and other diseases.
  • Original hot chocolate recipes from Mexico and Central and South America contained water, cacao beans, wine, and—you guessed it—pepper.

Pick Up Some Pepper this Weekend

You’ll find a variety of peppercorns, including black, green, red and white at the Delray GreenMarket. Look for Lindsey at the World Flavors spice booth. And remember: fancy pepper and other spices make great gifts for the gourmet chefs in your life!

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