Different kinds of Peppercorn in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, peppercorns are pungent in taste and heating. Due to this heat they can increase Pitta, and decrease Vata and Kapha in the body. Vata contains properties of the ether and air elements and is responsible for our energy and movement, including the circulation of the blood, the elimination of waste, and the regulation of the immune and nervous system. Too much black pepper will aggravate Vata because heat can also create excessive dryness. Kapha contains the properties of earth and water and is responsible for lubrication, mucosal membranes, growth and nourishment. As Kapha is cooler in nature black pepper is a favourite spice to pacify it.
Black Peppercorns aka Marica
Black peppercorns are dried berries from the vine Piper nigrum. They are harvested by picking green, under-ripe peppercorns and leaving them to dry until they turn black. One of the strongest and most pungent varieties of peppercorn, they have a sharp taste and mildly spicy flavour that causes a heating action.
A staple in kitchens around the world, black pepper is so much more than its flavour-enhancing properties. It also boasts all number of health benefits and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. This is thanks to its bioactive compounds, the most potent of which is an antioxidant called piperine.
Piperine gives black pepper its signature pungent taste and plays an important role in boosting your digestive system. It helps to stimulate hydrochloric acid in your stomach, allowing you to easily digest and absorb the foods you eat, and also helps reduce any discomfort and gas build-up in your intestines. Furthermore, its active compounds promote a strong immune system by boosting white blood cells, helping your body to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
Piperine also has a positive effect on nutrient bioavailability. Therefore, by incorporating black pepper into your meal, you are both enhancing its flavour and increasing the number of nutrients absorbed into your bloodstream!
Black peppercorns are usually crushed or ground into cooking (though sometimes added whole to stews and soups) and are certainly a wonderful addition to any meal.
White Peppercorns aka Sita Marica
White peppercorns are black peppercorns whose outer-husk has been removed. This is usually achieved by soaking the berries in water for a few days. As a result, they are slightly less pungent in taste and have a softer aroma.
In cooking, white peppercorns are primarily used in white sauces or light coloured dishes. Much like black peppercorns, they are best ground directly onto food. However, while black pepper is bolder with lots of heat, white pepper has a lighter, milder flavour. Therefore, it is a popular spice among those who are not a fan of heat. So, for people with a Pitta imbalance white pepper may be less aggravating that black pepper.
Green peppercorns are under-ripe peppercorns that are slightly spicy, fresh and aromatic. They are quite mild in taste, so are often added to more delicately flavoured food, such as chicken and fish. According to Ayurveda, fresh green peppercorns have a sweet aftertaste and do not have a heating action.
When peppercorns are left to fully ripen on the vine, they turn a brilliant shade of red. As a result, red peppercorns can be harder to find because they are typically dried to develop a black coat, or dried and stripped to become white peppercorns.
Therefore, expect to pay quite a dear price if you do find any! Red peppercorns are often confused with pink peppercorns, which are actually small, round berries from a South American shrub. Red peppercorns have quite a
sweet quality that is excellent with seafood, while its flavour is complimented nicely by lime and fresh ginger. Check out Steenbergs for a fantastic range of different peppercorns. For a kapha alleviating yet nutritive recipe using peppercorns click here.