The Pepper Upper
By Fiona Breslin
Whole black peppercorns were once considered so valuable they were used as currency in Europe and traded for gold. Today peppercorns are valued for their nutritional properties, and for adding flavor and spice to recipes.
Available in whole and ground varieties, one teaspoon of dried black peppercorn contains small amounts of nutrients such as vitamin K and iron as well as manganese. Peppercorn is also a source of the compound piperine, which gives the spice its taste. The compound is used in aromatherapy and natural medicine to relieve itching, aid digestion, and strengthen the respiratory system.
Other popular types of peppercorn include white, and the softer textured pink (sometimes referred to as rose), that vary in piquancy. When possible, purchase whole peppercorn, since freshly ground pepper provides greater aroma and flavor.
Pepper in all its forms is a versatile, widely used spice that can be included in nearly any recipe to spruce up flavor. Whole peppercorns keep their taste and aroma more than twice as long as ground. Although you can find ground pepper everywhere, it really doesn’t compare with the distinctive taste of freshly ground. It’s worth investing in a pepper grinder and using whole peppercorns to get that taste everyday.
You can use whole and ground peppercorns to season your dishes. Ground white pepper is the pepper that will make you sneeze. It is often used in Asian cuisine, and has a drier, hotter taste than black pepper. Try adding it to stir fried vegetables.
Black pepper is more aromatic. To add heat and spice to a dish, grind in some black pepper during cooking. For blander recipes, like our Potato & Rosemary Risotto, simply finish with a grind or two of black pepper before serving. Whole black peppercorns add great flavor to stocks and stews. They add a subtle tang to Cook For Your Life’s Poached Chicken Pot Au Feu.