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Chapter 1 - Exotic spices: Pepper



Every time I walk into my kitchen I feel like Ali Baba who is about to enter the secret cave full of treasure. I’m practically ready to say the magic words “Open Sesame!” Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t be far from the truth saying that spices were an exotic treasure for quite a few centuries, and were often more expensive than gold. For instance, London’s dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves in 16th century, and Dutch merchants ordered still life paintings depicting spices to show their wealth. The wealth was measured in the amount of spices one could afford. We cannot even imagine today that a war could be started over cinnamon, and yet quite a few wars broke out between European countries over Indonesian Spice Islands from 15th through 17th century. We can talk about history of spices forever, but let’s return to the kitchen, and see what we can find there.

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Let’s look at the pepper. We often use the words pepper and peppercorns interchangeably without realizing that they are different plants. Pepper comes in a form of peppercorns and bell peppers. Peppercorns of different colors come from genus piper nigrum, while chili pepper or bell pepper comes from genus capsicum. Peppercorns are fruits and they grow on a vine in clusters, like grapes. Peppercorns come in many-many colors, but white, black and green ones come from the same vine. Green peppercorns are harvested and preserved while still young, and black peppercorns have to mature to be harvested. For white peppercorns the outer casing has to be removed after soaking. Black pepper can be used in countless dishes and many drinks, but to have the best quality peppercorns have to be ground right before cooking or flavoring. As for health benefits black pepper is indispensable. It stimulates taste buds that in turn stimulate higher secretion of hydrochloric acid, thus promoting digestion. One of the well-known Ayurvedic formula Trikatu(or 3 peppers) has 2 peppers that help stimulate sluggish  digestive system and assist in burning fat. It has wonderful diaphoretic or promoting sweat properties and also antimicrobial properties that help with congestions, colds and flu. Mixed with honey it helps to dry the mucus and stop congested sinuses. The carminative or anti-bloating property of black pepper saved quite a few people from the misery of farting in public. In addition black pepper has nutritional value as it is a great source of manganese, vitamin K and other minerals like copper or chromium. Unlike its closest relative chili pepper, it doesn’t irritate the membranes as much and can be used a lot more often. We’ll talk about chili peppers in our next blog.

Happy exploring.

MilagroFlora Team

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