Journey with spices – Pepper and paprika


Recommended reading: Bring spices to your life, Journey with spices – Leafy Spices, Journey with spices – Kernels and Seeds and Journey with spices – Cinnamon.

Checking the linked articles above and the table below you will see three remaining topics that are still waiting to be covered: spices made of fruits, root spices, and blends. Today I will focus on fruits and their use as spices. Mentioning fruits, the first thing coming to one’s mind would be apples, pears, strawberries, bananas, pineapples… Ones I am talking about are fruits from botanical point of view. If you want to read more check Wikipedia.

King of spices

Henry VIII was married a few times. He was the undisputed king, but for the queens, well…. there were many. If you are really keen on learning more on the Tudor history, you can check this article – your knowledge of British royalties might come in handy when the most anticipated wedding takes place at the end of April 2011. I remembered H8, because he had many wives. Type “king of spices” to Google and you will get only one result, namely pepper. But try searching for “queen of spices.” Here you will find a harem of queens. 🙂 In most cases cardamom is mentioned as THE queen, but it is not alone. There are also references to turmeric and saffron.

I wrote about spice wars in previous blogs, so there is no point of writing about the same thing from the pepper perspective. What I would like to mention here are some interesting historical facts about the most famous spice in the world. In ancient Rome the spice trade was confined to the designated market and the most important street of the spice district was Via Piperatica – Pepper Street. Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals. Interestingly also cayenne pepper was exclusively used by Aztec kings – it was often mixed with chocolate. I will finish the facts section with PhD degree: the most famous pepper in the world is most probably Dr Pepper. 🙂

Pepper and paprika

Red spice paprika comes from a dried vegetable (botanically it is a fruit though) called bell pepper, pod pepper, or sweet pepper in English. In other languages the term paprika is more common, for example Italian paprica, Hebrew paprika [פפריקה] or even Japanese papurika [パプリカ].

When pepper is mentioned one usually thinks of black pepper. We also know white, green, and red peppers. Pink pepper is only similar in shape, but comes from a totally different plant. Its taste is somehow similar to black pepper – it is fruitier and milder.

Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe fruit of the pepper plant. Fruits are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. Fruits are dried for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn.

White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone, with the darker coloured skin and the flesh of the pepper fruit removed. The naked seed is dried.

Green pepper, like black, is made from the unripe fruits. Dried green peppercorns are treated in a way that retains the green colour.

Red pepper consists of ripe red pepper fruits preserved in brine and vinegar. Ripe red peppercorns can also be dried using the same colour-preserving techniques used to produce green pepper.

Pink pepper is a fruit of a plant from a different family, the Peruvian pepper tree, Schinus molle.

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About Sebastjan Brezovec

I see blogging as a welcome distraction from daily routine. It gives me freedom to express myself as well as motivation for some research before publishing the content.
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