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The King of Spices

Black pepper has been dubbed the king of spices.

Black Pepper, the King of Spices

Above: black, white and green peppercorns are the fruit of the piper nigrum vine from the world's equatorial regions

Black pepper makes a simple salad perky, a light fish dish intriguing and pasta delectable. Won over by black pepper because it adds so much flavor to food, I asked my friend Paulie, a knowledgeable and good cook, to tell me a little bit about it.

Because pepper can be stored for years without losing flavor, it gained its extra rank and status as king of spices. Pepper was so precious in ancient times that it was used as money to pay taxes, tributes, dowries and rent. It was weighed like gold and used as a common medium of exchange. In A.D. 410, when Rome was captured, 3,000 pounds of pepper were demanded as ransom. Current principal pepper exporters are India, Indonesia, Brazil and Malaysia.

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