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Make way for the king

Two kinds of pepper, black and white, are recognised

Photo: K. Ananthan

Posh spice Black pepper

The pepper known as the ‘king of spices’ comes from the fruits of an evergreen, woodyplant, indigenous to the Malabar coast in Kerala. It is known and found to grow well in certain parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.

The vine has climbing branches bearing numerous rootsat the swollen nodes. The leaves are ovate in shape with a sharp-pointed end. Minute white flowers are borne on slender, pendulous dense spikes 10-12 cms long. Each spike may bear about 10-40 single seeded spherical fruit four to five cms in diameter. The pepper vine thrives best in moist hot climate with distributed rainfall. Pruning is necessary at intervals so that the plant becomes shrubby. Harvesting season begins from November to December.

Two types of pepper – black and white – are recognised in the spice trade. For black pepper, the beans are plucked when they turn red and dried in the sun. The pericarp wrinkles and turns black. White pepper is produced from fully ripened red berries which are picked and soaked in water, the skin is removed and dried in the sun till they turn white in colour.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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