Pepe: features and benefits
The term Pepe refers to a whole series of botanical species of which there are numerous variants. All these plants are part of the Piperaceae family that originate from southern India, but were and are still grown in tropical countries such as Brazil, Madagascar and Indonesia.
As far as the morphology of the plant is concerned, one can certainly notice its height, which can even reach four meters. The leaves are rather large both in width and length, which can reach up to ten centimeters.
At the axil of the leaves originates a long peduncle that bears small flowers.
But the most interesting element for this plant are the fruits, spherical berries, small and used in the kitchen as aroma.
These small berries are combined to form clusters that extend vertically from a peduncle. The color of these varies according to the degree of ripeness, in fact, at first they are green, in the middle of the process they appear of a beautiful red color passing from shades of yellow and orange. At maturity the berries have a fairly dark brown color which then changes again according to the treatments that the man does to be able to exploit them.
As already mentioned, the pepper has a considerable commercial importance, not only for the use made of it in the culinary field, but also for the precious benefits it offers in the medicinal field. In this regard, almost all the existing species are used and obviously each has its own specific role and function.
Most known species
Among the variants of pepper, the most used are:
- Black pepper: currently the major producer of this type of pepper is Vietnam. It shows itself in the form of dark-colored grains that have only one seed inside them. The form commonly used is given by the drying of the fruit. This gives the dishes a spicy and intense taste.
- Green pepper: actually it is the same black pepper that is harvested when its color is still green and therefore it has not reached maturity. To prevent it from being affected by mold or other pests, it is stored in brine.
- Cubeda pepper: it is completely similar to black pepper and has been confused for this for a long time. His recent discovery led him to have the name of gray pepper and is commonly used in the Moroccan cuisine.
- Long pepper: it is so called because of its elongated and conical shape. Its taste, unlike the others, is not spicy but extremely sweet and is widely used in the Far East, while in the West its use is more rare.
The pink pepper, unlike what one might think belongs to another genus, the Schinus, but the use made of it is identical to that of the grains of the genus Piper.
That Pepe has health benefits has been scientifically proven. As the first elements to its advantage are the large amount of Potassium, Calcium and Phosphorus, important because they are the basis of the composition of the organism. The use of this spice in the kitchen is due to the fact that it is possible to exploit its properties that favor the digestion of foods and therefore stimulate the correct functioning of the entire digestive system. Related to this effect is that of antibacterial, or rather, pepper prevents foreign bacteria from gaining the upper hand over normal flora in the intestine.
Even in the case of problems associated with the accumulation of intestinal gas, pepper can be an excellent remedy as well as being inexpensive.
Inside the grains there are considerable amounts of antioxidants that are useful in preventing premature aging.
Another benefit that can be obtained from the use of pepper is a valid aid during the diet in fact it is an excellent thermogenic and favors the metabolic use of fats.
For some it would also be a natural antidepressant due to its ability to stimulate the production of endorphins.
Pepper can be safely used for its properties but care should be taken because, like all natural remedies, it may also present contraindications. In addition to playing an excellent role in the digestive processes, it could irritate the mucous membranes and create problems such as hemorrhoids and gastritis.
It is also advised not to use large amounts of pepper during pregnancy and breastfeeding as scientific evidence has shown that it is not healthy for the child.
Inhaling the pepper could cause serious lung problems so it is advisable to be careful while using it.
How to use pepper
Most of its benefits are related to particular aspects of the digestive tract and to enjoy it it is necessary to ingest the peppercorns or ground. It is often added, as an aroma, to numerous foods that are part of the culinary tradition of the Mediterranean. As described above, in most cases pepper gives a spicy taste thanks to the presence of an alkaloid contained in it which is called piperine.
It can be grated over soups, pasta, sauces of various kinds but also roast meats and fish.
In reality, it is often used also for external use, for example to treat symptoms related to bruises and muscle pains. In this regard, pepper grains can be placed in very hot water during bathing.