For this instalment of the Kitchen Spice Series, we’re talking about a spice that many people use but might not realize the benefits of. Black pepper! With its pungent smell and taste, black pepper is sometimes called the “King of Spices”. It is the most popular spice, and accounts for 1/5 of spice trade in the world. In ancient Greece, it was even used as currency! Given the heat this spice can give, it is not surprising that it is warming and drying to our body. The pungency stimulates our taste buds, wakes up our digestion, and increases stomach acid to digest our food better. That stimulatory effect also helps your circulation, clears out mucous, and sweats out a fever.
What Can Black Pepper Do For Us?
In addition to a number of antioxidants that help protect us, black pepper has a pretty much magical ingredient called piperine. This has thermogenic properties, which means it helps stimulate our metabolism, and encourages the breakdown of lipids. Studies are also looking at how this effects our neurotransmitters (special brain chemicals such as serotonin), potentially helping with depression. Piperine also has an amazing ability to help us absorb some nutrients and drugs better, and in some cases helps them last longer in the body. A great example of this is a study showing piperine increased the bioavailability (how much could be absorbed and used by your body) of the curcumin in turmeric by 2000%!
When Is Black Pepper Most Beneficial?
Peppercorns come in black, white and green, and these come from the same plant, they are just prepared differently. Once ground, the aromatics evaporate quickly so old ground pepper is not very beneficial. Use freshly ground pepper and add right at the end of cooking, or just when you are going to eat.
How to Cook with Black Pepper
Pepper can be added to so many dishes, but can also be added to drinks. Some cultures add pepper to coffee! We enjoy it at our office in a masala chai tea. I find prepared tea bags do not make very flavourful tea, so I prefer using loose tea or combining spices myself and simmering it on the stove. Here is a recipe to inspire you trying some out:
Masala Chai Tea Recipe
Here’s What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 – 2 cups water
6 black peppercorns, crushed
4 cardamom pods, crushed
A few cloves, ground or crushed
1 slice fresh ginger, minced
Two cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
1/2 – 1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon loose black tea (or two tea bags)
Maple syrup/sugar, to taste (optional)
Here’s How to Make It:
1.) Place water and spices in pot and bring to boil, then simmer covered for 20 minutes.
2.) Add the milk and simmer gently for a few minutes more.
3.) Turn off heat and add tea. Steep for 10 minutes.
4.) Strain into mug, then stir in sweetener to taste if desired.