What is black gold?
Do you know we eat black gold daily? Yes, it’s absolutely true! Just a pinch of black gold makes our food very tasty and delicious. It’s spicy, very strong, makes us sneeze sometimes and also adds more flavor to our dishes……it is commonly called black pepper. Yes, black gold is nothing but a black pepper which is found in every kitchen. It is a great spice which is called as ‘king of spices’, especially in our Indian kitchen.
Black gold and its other names:-
Black gold or black pepper is one of the most used spices which is found on almost every dining table. It is scientifically called as Piper nigrum. It’s a flowering vine which belongs to the family of Piperaceae. It is cultivated as fruit known as peppercorns, which is when dried used as a spice i.e as black pepper. Some people called pepper as salt’s exotic cousin because they both compliment each other and used in almost every dish together. Many also called it as a master spice.
Why black pepper is called as Black gold of India:-
Black pepper is one of the earliest and oldest spices known by man in the world. The origin of pepper can be traced to India’s Malabar region (presently known as Kerala). In ancient India, black pepper was highly valued good in trade and at the same time used as a currency for trade. Also, it was believed at that time that One bag of pepper was equal to man’s life. Due to all these factors pepper became very precious and began to be referred as ‘Black Gold of India’.
History of the popularity of Black Gold:-
This distinctively flavored spice has an incredible history which shows how much it was popular.
Ancient period –
- The ancient history of black pepper is about 4000 years ago. It was mentioned in various ancient books like Tamil literature and Mahabharata, where the flavor of black pepper is clearly seen.
- Black gold or pepper was used in mummification rituals in ancient Egypt in 1213 BCE. It was put in the nostrils of Ramesses-ll as a ritual after his death.
- In the 4th century, Greece black pepper became very expensive and only rich can afford it because trade routes were very long.
- When Roman Empire conquered Egypt in 30 BCE, short routes were established by them and pepper began to be widely used.
- A 3rd-century cookbook Apicius De Re Conquinaria added pepper in most of its recipes.
- Black Gold was so popular at that time that when Rome was invaded by Atilia, the Hun & Alaric, the Visigoth in the 5th century, they demanded 3000 pounds of pepper as a ransom to free Rome.
- In the book, ‘ The history of decline and fall of the Roman Empire’, Edward Gibbon, clearly wrote that “ pepper was a favorite ingredient of the most expensive Roman cookery”.
During the medieval period, pepper was a luxurious item and was only affordable to rich people.
- There was a French saying during this time. For comparing any valuable thing they use to say, “ as dear as pepper”.
- After the fall of Rome, black pepper trade routes were under the control of Islamic states. First under the Persians and then under the Arabs.
- After the Arabs, Portuguese gained much control of pepper and other spice trades. Vasco Da Gama was first to sail to India in search of spices.
Modern period –
Soon the Dutch & the English took over all the controls of the trade from Portuguese.
- Black pepper was supplied to Europe in more quantity. Due to this prices of pepper declined and was available to everyone.
- Pepper was so popular in the United Kingdom that it led to the establishment of Guild of Pepperers to maintain purity standards.
- Peppercorns were also accepted as rent, which was called as ‘ peppercorn rent’. In Britain, people were burdened with this kind of rental system.
- There were also records which reveals that the whole town of Germany involved in paying the peppercorn rent.
- According to a legend, the rent of a building in Bermuda is still paid through peppercorns due to an old 200-year contract.
Black Gold in present times:-
Black gold once grew only in India, by the 16th century its cultivation started in Sunda, Malaysia, Madagascar, Sumatra and also in other Southeast Asian countries.
Presently, there are three top States which produces black gold in India i.e, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
In the world, peppercorns are most widely traded.
There is an International pepper Exchange which is located in Kochi, India.
Presently, the largest producer of pepper in the world is Vietnam. India is a 3rd largest producer.
Uses of Black gold:-
Apart from adding flavor to our foods, black gold was also used as a medicine in Siddha, Unani & Ayurveda. Even in Buddhist Samannaphala Sutta, it is mentioned that pepper is used as medicine which all monks carry with them.
Some benefits of pepper are –
- Helps constipation
- improve digestion
- Black pepper oil in food removes toxins from our body.
- cures a toothache
- cures an earache
- cure insect bites
- helps in skin problem
- relief to throat & helps with cold and cough
- Apart from these, pepper also prevents clothes from fading
Can’t believe a spice had so much influence on the history. Now I can wonder, why it was called as black gold because it was as precious as gold for anyone.