Black Pepper—Specialty Crop Profile
Aside from salt, pepper is the world’s most important and valued spice. It is used as an important component of many recipes and to flavor foods. From the berries of Piper nigrumare produced several condiments: black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, and “Tellicherry” pepper. Many grades of these peppers are recognized in the spice trade.
Other important commercial products derived from the pepper plant are:
- Pepper oil (the vapor or steam distillation process widely used in fragrances or condiments; black pepper yields about 1–2.4% essential oil)
- Cookies and crackers
- Tea (pepper leaves combined with tea leaves)
- Perfumes (made from dried parts of the pepper plant)
- Candy, sweets (contain pepper oil/resin)
- Sausage preservation
Commercial production of pepper worldwide in 2000 was approximately 230,000 metric tons (MT) (254,000 T). Countries in the International Pepper Community, an inter-governmental organization of pepper producing countries, produce 84% of the world’s crop (FAO 2000). Other countries such as Vietnam, China, and Madagascar produce the remaining 16%. Pacific island production probably comprises less than 1% of world production.
Growth and development
Pepper is a woody, climbing liana or vine. In cultivation, the plant is grown on a support such as a trellis. It may grow to a length of 10 m (33 ft) or more in length. During the third year after planting, a small crop can be harvested, with full production realized 7–8 years after planting. Plants are most productive at 8–20 years of age, but can continue bearing for 30 years. Ripe berries may be picked about 9 months after flowering. Berries ripen over a period of 2–6 months depending on climate or latitude. Berries are usually harvested every 7–14 days during the harvesting period. The harvesting calendar months vary throughout the world. For example, in India, pepper is harvested from November through March, whereas in Madagascar the crop is harvested from June through October. There is potential for two crops per year in some regions. In Papaikou, Hawai‘i, harvest occurs in February/March and in May/June.
Trees may be used to support pepper vines. Any tree or palm with rough bark that does not peel or slough off periodically, such as coconut, can be used to support black pepper plants. The plant grows well under light shade and thrives in soils rich in humus, making it an excellent agroforestry cropping plant. However, too much shade reduces yield. Pepper plants also respond well to organic fertilization from mulch materials collected in or near forests.
Original source of this article
This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from
Nelson, S.C., and K.T. Eger. 2011. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.