Pepper, the name of two unrelated plants and their pungent, aromatic fruits. Black peppercommon table pepperis a hot-tasting spice. Red pepper is both a seasoning and a vegetable, and its flavor ranges from mild and sweet to fiery hot. The pungency and aroma of pepper fruits are caused by volatile oils and oleoresins.
Black pepper comes from a woody vine native to southern Asia. The plant has aerial roots, heart-shaped leaves, and spikes of tiny yellowish-green flowers. The pea-sized, berrylike fruits are called peppercorns. Pepper-corns are picked green and dried in the sun until they turn black. Dried peppercorns may be sold for use in dining-table pepper-mills or, more commonly, ground into what is known commercially as black pepper or simply pepper. Commercial white pepper is made with the yellowish-gray centers of peppercorns, whose outer shells have been removed after harvesting. White pepper has a more delicate flavor than black pepper. India is the chief producer of black pepper.
The black pepper plant is Piper nigrum of the pepper family, Piperaceae.
Red pepper comes from a woody herb or shrub native to tropical America. Many varieties are cultivated in warm climates throughout the world. The plant has pointed leaves and small white flowers. The fruit is a fleshy pod containing many small, flat seeds. Main varieties of red pepper fruits may be classified as follows:
Chili is a general name for the many varieties of small, very hot peppers. Most are conical or slender, and crimson orange-red when ripe. Dried ground chili pepper is known commercially as cayenne, or red, pepper. It is used in salads, soups, processed meats, and hot sauces. Chili peppers are grown in Central America, Africa, Japan, and the United States. Tabasco is a variety grown in Louisiana. Jalapeo is a variety native to Mexico.
are large varieties, dark to bright red in color, with a slightly sweet taste and pleasing aroma. They are grown mainly in Europe and the United States. The slightly pungent Hungarian paprika is dried and powdered for use as a garnish on salads and as an ingredient in Hungarian goulash. Spanish paprika is a non-pungent variety.
is nearly round, with a pointed end. Its thick red flesh has a sweet, mild flavor. Pimientos are used in cheese spreads and stuffed olives. This pepper is often confused with the pimento.
sometimes called the garden pepperis about three inches (7.5 cm) long and has a boxlike shape. It is red, orange-yellow, or brown when ripe. An unripe sweet pepper is called a green pepper. The sweet pepper is eaten ripe or green. Raw sweet peppers are stuffed, or used in salads. They also may be cooked or pickled. The sweet pepper plant is widely cultivated as an annual in the United States.
Jamaica pepper is another name for pimento. It is not a pepper.
Principal species of the red pepper plant are Capsicum annuum and C. frutescens of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.