Piper nigrum, commonly known as black pepper, is perhaps the most widely used spice in the U.S. The species name, “nigrum”, means “black”. The piper genus brings us many other useful plants including kava kava (piper methysticum), root beer plant (piper auritum) and the betel leaf (piper betel), which is paired with the betel nut (areca catechu)and other species to make the stimulant cocktail, paan. Piper Nigrum, like these other relatives, is a vine, and it can reach about 15 feet in length. Piper Nigrum requires structure to climb unless it is cut back. Pepper is made from the dried unripe fruit of the plant, otherwise known as a peppercorn. The culinary importance of black pepper needs no introduction. Pepper also has some medicinal uses and would be considered a warming herb in Ayurveda. It is most used as a remedy for sore throats and coughs and it is considered a good source of antioxidants. Despite containing small amounts of safrole, which is said to be mildly carcinogenic, pepper itself is said to be anti-carcinogenic. The primary alkaloid, which gives pepper its spiciness, is piperine. In lab tests, piperine has shown promise as an anti-depressant. It is thermogenic, meaning that it produces heat through metabolic stimulation. As a result, you can find piperine or black pepper in various fat burning supplements too.
Piper Nigrum can be grown indoors under lights indoors. Temperatures should be kept above 60 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity above 50%. Piper Nigrum can be a year-round outdoor plant in zones 10 and above. Outside, black pepper plants like partial shade. Peppercorns can be harvested after about a year of growth.
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