The "king of spices" has proven to be one of the most notable factors influencing human culture throughout history. Native to southern India, this spice has been cultivated and used in that area since the start of recorded history. Evidence of the use of pepper can be found in almost every major civilization since that time.
Peppercorns were gathered by hand from the tropical forests that cover the Malabar coast and sold on the nearby shores to merchant ships destined for the area. This coastal market quickly gained popularity as the sole source of this "black gold." Peppercorns themselves were commonly used as trade currency in the absence of any standard coin. As one of the pioneering trade cultures and possessing the strongest navy in the world during their time, the Portugese developed new trade routes with the sole intention of procuring and monopolizing trade of this precious spice. Due to the presence of these far reaching trade routes, Piper nigrum was transported and planted in many tropical climates around the world.
Due to the high costs of trading between Europe and India, black pepper became a sought after luxury and a symbol of elite class status during the period of the Roman Empire and continuing all the way through the Middle Ages. Discovering new paths to obtain the spices and riches of the "Orient" became the driving force behind discovery of the Americas by Portugese sailors and the monarchy of Spain.
Scientific classification information can be found here >>
Design: Adam Haggerty - UW La Crosse - Last modified 4/16/2011