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Peppercorns
Pepper grows in warm, moist sunny climates, usually within about 15° of the equator. In most countries pepper is grown as a commodity to be sold at a prefixed price per ton, and is picked as soon as the berries are formed on the vine. When quality brings no extra cash, and margins are preciously slim, farmers can't take any chances. The longer the peppercorns are left on the vine, the greater the risk that they will be eaten by birds, or that the whole crop could be lost in a devastating storm. In a few places like India and Borneo, pepper is viewed as more than just a commodity. Here, it is part of the cultural heritage of the people, making growing and harvesting more like craftwork than factory production. Extra time and effort are taken to nurture the plants to produce the bold, rich flavors that have made pepper the king of spices for millennia. Both Tellicherry and Malabar pepper come from the same plant and are harvested at the same time. The Malabar corns are already a big step up from other peppers. Their size is noticeably larger in comparison with what supermar-kets sell as black peppercorns. Tellicherry are even larger, having matured further before harvesting. Some spikes of peppercorns are in a better location on the vine and receive more sunlight. Even on the individual spikes the corns towards the top tend to get more sun light and more nutrients, maturing faster as well. Only the largest 10% are able to bear the name Tellicherry. The growing and grading of pepper are taken very seriously; pepper is more than a crop with monetary benefits, it is a part of the Indian culture. In the Sarawak region of the island of Borneo, as in India, the local farmers use their experience and knowledge gained over the centuries to grow and harvest their pepper crops. In India the peppercorns are dried in the sun for about a week, losing a share of their flavor in the process. This method is used for nearly all of the pepper in Borneo as well, but now with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture in Sarawak, the largest of the crop are rapidly dried indoors with hot air to prevent such a loss. Sheltering the pepper from the elements produces more fully-flavored, cleaner peppercorns that fetch a higher price for the farmers. This technique was developed in response to the demands of meticulous German sausage makers who wanted extra clean pepper for their unique, cold-curing process, and were willing to pay extra for it. The hot air-drying of pepper in Sarawak has been perfected, yielding a surplus of peppercorns for export which we have been anxiously anticipating for the past few years. While the size of a peppercorn is important, maturity is the most important factor. As strong as the urge is to make an analogy to people, the analogy to tomatoes is probably better. The largest peppercorns from a crop, like our Tellicherry and Sarawak, are better than small for much the same reason that vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh from a farmer's stand in the middle of August, are better than shelf-ripened tomatoes from the supermarket in January. A tomato plant produces something that looks like a tomato fairly quickly, but it is only in the final weeks of ripening that the rich, sweet flavor develops. Peppercorns are the same way. Immature pepper is still nice and well worth a trip to the market, but it is that extra ripening time that makes the trip half-way around the world, possibly stumbling upon America along the way, seem like a worthwhile effort.
Whole Black Peppercorns   3 varieties, the world's most popular spice   
Whole White Peppercorns   2 varieties, both have a rich, winey, somewhat hot flavor
Whole Green Peppercorns   well-suited for poultry, vegetables and seafood
Whole Pink Peppercorns   expensive pink berries that add a touch of color and a rich, sweet flavor to almost any dish
Four Peppercorn Blend   adds festive color and flavor to any dish where one would use fresh ground pepper
Szechuan Peppercorns    A must have for the Asian kitchen
Ground Pepper
Ground Black Pepper   comes in a wide variety of grind sizes to fit every use   
Ground White Pepper   preferred in European and Southeast Asian cooking