The history of the white peppercorn is deeply interwoven with that of the black peppercorn since they are both from the same fruit. Black and white peppercorns come from the drupes of the Piper nigrum plant. They differ in that white peppercorns have had the dark skin removed, which alters both the flavor and the appearance of the spice. To make white peppercorns, the drupes are allowed to ripen before being soaked so that the skins can be rubbed off.
For much of human history, pepper has been one of the most important spices. In fact, it could be said that its value is second only to salt. The history of the spice trade is mainly the history of the peppercorn, which includes both black and white pepper. The Piper nigrum plant is native to Southeast Asia and peppercorns were being used by Indian cooks as early as 2000 BCE. The Ancient Egyptians used pepper in when mummifying corpses; peppercorns were stuffed into the mummy of Ramesses II and it is believed to have been used as currency in Ancient Rome.
Pepper was a valuable commodity in 9th century England and there was a guild of pepperers founded in London in 1180. The Venetians and Genoese would hold a monopoly on the European pepper trade during the Middle Ages.
Today, much of the world’s white pepper comes from Indonesia. Specifically, it comes from an island to the south east of Sumatra called Bangka. Brazil is the next most important producer, but its white pepper is mild in comparison to the Indonesian variety.
White pepper flavor profile
White pepper has a milder, simpler flavor than black peppercorns since much of the peppercorn’s complexity and heat is in the dark skin of the drupes. The aroma is quite different to that of black pepper; some people describe it as musty.
Health benefits of white peppercorns
White peppercorns are not quite as nutritious as black peppercorns do since they do not have the skin, which contains much of its nutritional value; however, they do still have several important nutrients. The compounds in white pepper that are beneficial for health include:
- Vitamins: White peppercorns are a good source of both vitamin C and riboflavin. Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B-2.
- Minerals: White peppercorns are an excellent source of manganese and a good source of iron. They also contain copper, magnesium, and calcium.
- Piperine: Piperine is a compound found in white peppercorns that helps with the body’s metabolism of nutrients and medication. This can be good or bad depending on the compound. For example, it is essential that curcumin is consumed with piperine to ensure that it reaches the extremities.
You can use white peppercorns to treat or prevent various illnesses, including:
- Digestive ailments: White peppercorns stimulate hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, which improves the digestive system’s ability to break food down. The fiber in white peppercorns can help to speed the rate at which food travels through the gut.
- Osteoporosis: This spice contain many of the minerals needed for good bone health. This means that it may help to slow the loss of bone density, also called osteoporosis.
Common uses of white peppercorns
White peppercorns are preferred over black peppercorns in Europe as well as in some parts of Asia. European cooks (especially French cooks) prefer to use white peppercorns rather than black peppercorns for aesthetic reasons. Black pepper results in black specks in lighter colored dishes, while the white version provides flavor and mild heat while being virtually invisible.