What’s In Your Pepper?

Black pepper comes from an evergreen vine that was discovered many centuries ago in India. It was so highly prized that only the wealthiest had access to it. Fortunately for us, most cupboards contain this burst of flavor and are used daily in our food preparations.

In centuries past the berries were selected and harvested by hand. To make black pepper, the berries were picked while they were still green and unripe. They were piled up and left to ferment. They were then spread out in the sun to dry. The result is a shriveled black peppercorn.

Today the majority of our pepper is handled much differently! In an effort to control micro-organisms, our pepper can be treated chemically or irradiated or both. Chemicals such as ethylene oxide, which is used to make ethylene glycol, is found in anti-freeze and is also used to sterilize medical equipment. This chemical is also used to sterilize pepper! There are other chemicals used to fumigate peppers as well, chemicals that have been banned in Europe because infraredsauna of their harmful effects not just on humans but the environment as well. We eat only small amounts of pepper at a time but think of the long term effects of absorbing these toxic chemicals into our bodies! Then there is irradiation! The FDA seems fit to approve a much higher level of irradiation for pepper for several reasons:

– It has less moisture content and a harder shell which makes it better for irradiation.

– It takes a very high concentration of radiation to kill off bacteria and insects and,

– the FDA considers that because we eat very little pepper compared to the amount of food we eat that it is OK to radiate it more than other foods.

Organic pepper is sterilized differently. Steam heat is the preferred way of treating peppercorns. Heat kills harmful micro-organisms and unlike radiating foods which violently oscillate the molecules and potentially warp them, steam heat does the job but maintains the integrity of the pepper.

Black pepper does a lot more than flavor our food. There are many health benefits as well. Organic black pepper has the ability to:

– Stimulate digestion

– Stimulate metabolism and the proper breakdown of fat cells (it has a thermogenic effect)

– Has anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties

– Can assist in keeping your arteries clean

– Is an effective anti-microbial.

As a matter of fact, in very early centuries, pepper was used as a preservative for food. Recent research has shown its effectiveness at killing bacteria. It is especially effective when used with other foods and spices such as garlic and onions, oregano, allspice, and cinnamon.

By far the number one pepper in the everyday house hold is the black pepper! All the other peppers have healthful benefits and can be consumed by the pepper enthusiasts, but for most people, we freely use it without a thought on how it is processed. Being educated is key to maintaining good health and our palates. Be informed before you buy!


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