Maricham-Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) Part 1

Mareecham-Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) Part 1

Maricha, maricham, black pepper (Piper nigrum) is regarded as the “king of spice”. It is incredibly popular among spices since ancient times. This flowering vine is cultivated for its fruit, known as ‘Peppercorn’ which is dried and used as spice and seasoning. 
Black pepper has been known to Indian cooking since 2000 BC. Black pepper was very popular in India since Chera dynasty of Tamil and Malabar Coast (now the state of Kerala). The lost ancient port city of Muziris in Kerala famous for exporting black pepper gets mentioned in a number of classical historical sources. Black pepper or peppercorns being steeply/highly prized trade goods were known as “black gold” and were used for barter trading. The legacy of this barter trade remains in some Western legal systems that recognize the term “peppercorn rent” 

The ancient history of black pepper is often interlinked and confused with that of long pepper, Pippali (Piper longum). In fact the popularity of long pepper, Pippali (Piper longum) did not entirely decline until the discovery of the New World and of chili peppers.      

Before the 16th century, pepper grown in Southeast Asia was traded with China. Following the British hegemony in India, all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa was traded from Malabar region.  

Little is known about the use of black pepper in ancient Egypt and how it reached the Nile from South Asia. Black pepper was found stuffed in the nostrils of the third pharaoh, Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BC.

Saint Aldhelm a seventh-century Bishop of Sherborne sheds some light on the role of black pepper in England at that time:

I am black on the outside, clad in a wrinkled cover,
Yet within I bear a burning marrow.
I season delicacies, the banquets of kings, and the luxuries of the table
Both the sauces and tenderized meats of the kitchen
But you will find in me no quality of any worth
Unless your bowels have been rattled by my gleaming marrow

It is commonly believed that during the Middle Ages pepper was used to conceal the taste of rotten meat. But no evidence supports this claim. In the Middle Ages black pepper was a luxury item, affordable only to the wealthy.
It is possible that black pepper was known in China for quite a long time for it was called as “Jujiagor (sauce-tablet)”. Marco Polo testifies to pepper’s popularity in China in the 13th century.  

The word pepper has roots in the Sanskrit word pippali for long pepper. Ancient Greek and Latin turned pippali into the Greek peperi and then into the Latin piper. The Romans used these names both for long pepper and black pepper, erroneously believing that both came from the same plant.
Today’s “pepper” is derived from the Old English pipor and from Latin ‘piper’ which is derived from Romanian Piper Italian Pepe, Dutch peper, German Pfeffer and French Poivre. People have also used ‘pepper’ in a figurative sense to mean “spirit” or “energy” at least as far back as 1840s. In the 20th century, this is shortened to “pep” [1]

Other Names         
Taxonomic Name: Piper nigrum, Piper trioicumMuldera multinervis Miq, Piper aromaticum Lam, Piper baccatum C. DC, Piper colonum C. Presl, Piper glyphicum Hoffmgg. ex. Kunth, Piper malabarense C. DC, Piper rotundum Noronha    
Sanskrit: Mareecham, Ushanm, Ullagh, Krishn
English: Black peppr
Assamese: Jaluk, Jalook, Gulmorich
Bengali: Kala Marich
Gujarati: Kala Mari
Hindi: Kali Mirch, Ushan
Kannada: Kari Menasu
Kashmiri: Maricham
Konkani: Pokhlem Miri, Mire     
Malayalam: Kurukulak, Nallamulak
Marathi: Miri, Kali Miri, Kali Mirchi, Mirwel    
Oriya: Dolo Maricho
Pali: Piphali         
Tamil: Milaku
Telugu: Marichamu, Mariyamu
Urdu: Siyah, Mirch, Ushan [2]

Taxonomic Classification           

Domain: Eukaryta                      
Kingdom: Plantae- Plants
Clade: Angipsperm
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta- Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta- Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta- Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida- Dicotyledons
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Order: Piperales
Family: Piperaceae- Pepper family
Genus: Piper L- Pepper
Species: nigrum L- Black        
(Piper nigrum=Black Pepper) [3], [4]      

Geographical Distribution

Maricham-Black pepper (Piper nigrum) L is native to Western Ghats of Kerala State in India. There it grows wild in the mountains. The sub mountainous tracts of the Western Ghats are believed to be the centre of origin of Maricham-black pepper (Piper nigrum) L. Based on known occurrences, bioclimatic areas with higher probabilities are mainly located in the eastern and western coasts of Indian Peninsula, the east of Sumatra Island, some areas in Malay Archipelago (an extensive group of Malay islands) and the southeast coastal areas of China. The minimum temperature of the coldest month, the mean monthly temperature range and the precipitation of the wettest month were identified as highly effective factors in distribution of Maricham-Black pepper (Piper nigrum) L and possibly account for the crop’s distribution pattern. Such climatic requirements inhibited this species from disappearing and gaining a larger geographical range. It is cultivated all over the tropics for its fruit which is used as a spice. Like in India it is now cultivated as a commercial crop in Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil. Maricham-Black pepper (Piper nigrum) L is the world’s most traded spice. It is one of the most common spice added to cuisines around the world. [5], [6]   
Plant Morphology                   
Macroscopic Characteristics
The Plant:      


The Maricham-Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a perennial woody vine. This stout woody evergreen climber climbs up to 4 to 10 meters in height on supporting trees, poles, or trellises (a framework used as a support for fruit tree or creepers).
It is a spreading vine, rooting readily where trailing stems touch the ground. The vines branch horizontally from nodes and do not attain length, but the full grown vines present the appearance of bush. 
The Roots:   


The Roots are of two types; adventitious feeding roots and supporting or climbing aerial roots.
The Stem:

The single Stem bears 20 to 30 fruiting spikes. Based on growth habits, morphological characters and functions, five distinct types of stem portions can be identified in the shoot system of the pepper vine.     
1. Main Stem which originates from the seed or from seed cutting. It climbs on a support with the aid of aerial or adventitious roots.
2. Runner Shoots are produced from the basal portion of the main stem. They grow at right angle to the main stem, usually restricted up to 50 cm from the ground.
3. Fruiting branches (Plagiotropes) are produced from the nodes of main stem.
They grow laterally more or less at right angles to the main stem, bearing the spikes.
4. Top shoots (Orthotropes): After a period of vertical growth, the top portion of main shoots attains a bushy appearance with shorter, thicker internodes. They branch profusely with large number of adventitious roots at the nodes. This portion of the main shoot is called top shoots or Orthotropes. 
5. Hanging shoots (Geotropes): In a fully grown vine, some of the plagiotropes at the top portion are seen to give rise to a special type of shoots which hang down and grow geotropically.

The Leaves:      


The Leaves are almond shaped, simple, opposite, succulent or fleshy, soft, broadly lanceolate or ovate, alternate, 5 to 10 cm long and 3 to 6 cm across. Wide variations occur in size and shape of the leaves; petiole 0.5 to 4 cm long, glabrous; lamina 6 to 15 cm long and 2.5 to 12 cm across oblique or cuneate at base, acuminate at apex, entire, membranous; secondary nerves 5 to 9 pairs.  

The Inflorescence:        
The Inflorescence is a pendulous spike or a catkin or ament, thin, slim, cylindrical cluster, with inconspicuous or no petals, produced at the nodes opposite to the upper leaves. The spikes lengthen up to 7 to 15 cm as the fruit matures.   

                             Inflorescence                              Flowers

The Flowers:

The Flowers are very minute, small; produced on pendulous spikes 4 to 8 cm long at the leaf nodes; monoecious or dioecious or hermaphrodite forms. In cultivated variety the flowers are bisexual, whitish to yellow-green in color, small, sessile, arranged spirally along the spike. The flowers are bracteolate (Bracteole= a small leaf or leaf-like structure directly subtending a flower or inflorescence) with four peltate bracts; bracts of female spikes copular, adnate without raised margins; bracteoles forming a cup around the ovary; fruiting spikes fleshy, interrupted, up to 18 cm long; peduncles 1 to 2.5 cm long, glabrous; Perianth: The flowers are apetalous, lack the entire perianth. Pepper is protogynous i. e. the gynoecium develops before androecium. So generally flowers lower on the spike are pollinated by pollen dehising from those situated above. So pollination is by means of gravity (Geitonogamy). Gynoecium is composed of a single carpel or 3 to 5 carpels. At the center of the flower is unilocular, superior ovary. The style is short with star shaped stigma which is covered with a viscous liquid that favors fertilization. Androecium composed of 2 to 4 stamens on either side of the ovary. The short filaments bear oval shaped anthers with two pollen sacs. Opening of flowers (Anthesis) occurs in the evening. They open from the base to the tip.

The Fruits:   

     Green Drupes                 stages of ripening                            Peppercorns

The Fruits are round, berry-like, up to 6 mm in diameter, 3-4 mm across, pyriform or globose green at first but turning red as they ripen, black on drying, Botanically the fruit is a drupe and when dried is called peppercorn. Each fruit contains a single seed.   

The Seeds:


The Seed single, occupies the largest volume of the fruit, cream in color, 3 to 4 mm in diameter. [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12]

Microscopic Characteristics
Transverse section of the fruit of Maricham-Black pepper (Piper nigrum):
Epicarp shows an outer layer of polygonal cells having a distinct cuticle containing dark brown to blackish contents, followed by 2-3 layers of thin walled parenchyma cells intermingled with greatly thickened isodiametric to radially elongated stone cells; Mesocarp is a comparatively broad zone constituting the greater area of the Pericarp. The outer 7-8 layers of cells are parenchymatous and certain small starch grains, scattered among these cells are noted larger secretion sacs with suberized (impregnated with suberin, an inert waxy substance) walls and oil, resin contents. The next several layers of cells are compressed; fibrovascular bundles ramify in these regions. Beneath the compressed cells is a layer of larger oil cells having suberized walls, followed by a zone of two layers of small parenchyma cells. Endocarp consists of single layer of stone cells with inner walls stronger than those of outer layer. Testa (outer covering of seeds) consists of 2-3 layers of compressed elongated cells beneath them is pigment layer containing a dark-brown tannin substance. In the inner zone of Perisperm the cells are radially elongated which embed starch, protein and a large amount of oleoresins. Tracheids (elongated water conducting cell in xylem) are pitted, some of which show helical thickenings on their secondary walls.     
Powder microscopy:
Powder is dark brown to blackish in color having pungent odour and bitter, acrid taste. Stained with safranin, powder shows isodiametric or slightly elongated stone cells, interspersed with thin walled polygonal hypodermal cells, beaker shaped stone cells from endocarp and abundant polyhedral, elongated cells from perisperm, packed tightly with masses of compound and single, oval to round, starch grains, oil globules and trachieds. [13]   

Varieties of Pepper
Black pepper: The king of spices
Black pepper is produced from the still-green, unripe drupes. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water. The heat ruptures the cell walls. They are then dried in the sun or drying machines for several days. During drying the skin around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin wrinkled black layer. The dried spice is called peppercorn. On some estates, the berries are separated from the stem by hand and then dried in the sun without boiling process. Pepper spirit and oil is extracted from berries by crushing them.  [14]
Black pepper is an important constituent of the famous tri-herbal formulation: “Trikatu”. Black pepper is one of the most widely used spices in the world. It stands side-by-side with salt on dining table. There is a distinct and undeniable earthiness to the flavor of black pepper, one that is woody, piney and sharp all at the same time. It has a unique pungent taste.
Black pepper is not intended to be used like salt. Black pepper is not a flavor enhancer but a spice.
Black pepper enhances the bioavailability of many drugs. There are vast health benefits attributed to black pepper. Black pepper certainly has more uses than most people would even dream of. Pepper spirit is used in many medicinal and beauty products. Pepper oil is used as Ayurvedic massage oil and in certain herbal treatments. It is used in many polyherbal formulations to detoxify systems. It is used to relieve: coughs, common cold, respiratory disorders, dyspepsia, pyorrhea, dental disorders, diarrhea, constipation, anemia, heart disease etc. [15]     

Black and white pepper

White pepper: Mangalore spice

 White pepper consists solely of the seed of the ripe fruit of the pepper plant, with the thin darker-colored skin (flesh) of the fruit removed. Fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week. The peppercorn then softens and decomposes; rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit. The naked seeds are then dried. The process is known as ‘retting’.

White pepper is milder than black pepper with less complex flavor less pungent taste. White pepper is used in Chinese and Thai cuisine and also in salads, cream sauces, light colored sauces, mashed potatoes. White pepper has a different flavor from that of black pepper because it lacks certain compounds present in the outer layer of the drupe. White pepper can have a musty, earthy or grassy flavor, which can vary depending on the type of processing used and handling after production. [16]
White pepper is rich in antioxidants and a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Hence it is used to treat arthritis. White pepper stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes including pancreatic lipase, amylase, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Hence it is used as a digestive agent. It boosts curcumin absorption. It stops diarrhea. It decreases blood pressure, hence used to treat heart diseases. [17]
Green pepper
Green pepper is unripe drupe of flowering pepper plant. It should be correctly called as green peppercorn because the word green pepper or bell pepper refers to green capsicum which is not a true pepper. Dried peppercorns are treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve their color. Green peppercorns are preserved in brine (strong salt solution) or vinegar (acetic acid) and served as pickle. They are also preserved by canning or freeze-drying. Fresh, unpreserved green pepper drupes are unknown and are not available. They have a typical “fresh spicy” odor which is different from black pepper. They have pungent taste. If not preserved properly they decay quickly. They are used in Thai cuisine. They are not popular for medicinal use. [18]    
Pink pepper
Pink peppercorns are not true pepper corns of the genus Piper. They are the fruits of the Peruvian pepper tree Schinus molle or its relative, the Brazilian pepper tree Schinus terebinthifolius plants from Anacardiaceae family. As they are members of the cashew family, they may cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Since the berries are of these plants are of the same shape and size of true peppercorns, they are marketed under the name “pink peppercorn”. Moreover they have “spicy” aroma and a lighter pepper-like taste. They are used as spice similar to black pepper for these pair well with seafood and in light sauces due to their pretty color and light taste. [19], [20]     

 Varieties of Pepper [21]

Orange pepper and red pepper
Orange or red peppers are ripe drupes preserved in brine or vinegar. They are dried soon as the berries of pepper plant ripen. Many times orange, red colored capsicum is sold as “orange or red pepper”. [22]
Wild pepper
Wild pepper grows in the Western Ghats region of India. In the19th century the forests contained a large number of pepper vines. However deforestation resulted in “wild pepper” growing in more limited forest patches from Goa to Kerala. As the quality and yield of cultivated variety improved, the source of wild variety gradually decreased. No successful grafting of commercial pepper on wild pepper has been achieved to date. [23]    
Parts used
Roots, Leaves, Fruits (Berries), Seeds

[1] https://en.wikipedia/wiki/Black_pepper
[4] https://en.wikipedia/wiki/Black_pepper         
[5] https://en.wikipedia/wiki/Black_pepper                  
[6] Chao-yunHao et al, Modeling the Potential Geographic Distribution of Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) in Asia Using GIS Tools, Journal of Integrative Agriculture, Volume 11, Issue 4, April 2012, Pages 593-599
[8] google images
[9] chapter%201.pdf
[13] Manisha NTrivedi et al, Pharmacognostic, Phytochemical Analysis and Antimicrobial Activity of Two Piper Species, Pharmacie Globale, (IJCP), 2011, 7 (05)


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