Friday, June 5, 2020

13 Essential Herbs Series: Black Pepper

In this series, I will be exploring 13 common herbs you may have in your kitchen or garden, dissecting their meaning from science, history, and culture.  


Black Pepper

Appearance: Undried, the fruits of the peppercorn plant are red.  Once cooked and dried, they take on the dark brown to black appearance of black pepper.
Edible? Black pepper is completely edible but, being a pepper, large quantities can cause irritation to the throat, stomach, eyes, and nose.  
Origins: Originally native to tropical environments, specifically in South and Southeast Asia.
Other Notable Qualities:  White, green, and red pepper are all variations of the same peppercorns.

Scientific Correspondence:

Black pepper has potential antimicrobial and antioxidant effects.  According to some studies, it's even seen as gastro-protective.  While these claims need further study, many have been using black pepper in alternative medicine for years, especially by Buddist monks as it was one of the few "medicines" they were allowed to carry.  Additionally, the peppercorn plant contains phytochemicals that defend the plant against predators, sickness, or other invading plants.  As such, black peppercorn can be said to be protective.

Historical Correspondence:
Fire - Money

After the fall of Rome, Arabs became the dominant supplier and transporter of the peppercorn.  To protect their supply and maintain their monopoly on the spice, they created myths around how the peppercorn was collected.  One stated that the plant was guarded by "poisonous serpents." To fight them off, they had to burn the trees, which is what turned the once-white peppercorn fruit black. Another said that the plants were protected by fierce fire-breathing dragons. Additionally, peppercorn also contains a chemical called piperine which is responsible for its hot, biting flavor.  Because of its spicy nature and these protective myths involving the flame, it often represents fire.

Ancient Rome considered black pepper highly valuable, so much so that they would use it as currency.  In the fifth century, Visigoth king Alaric would demand 3,000 pounds of the spice as part of the random he demanded when he besieged Rome. In Medieval Europe, black pepper was considered a luxury item and the Dutch even had a phrase, "pepper expensive," which would refer to the prohibitive cost of an item.  At one point, a French serf could be freed in exchange for a pound of black pepper.  Many throughout history have used pepper to pay rent, taxes, and dowries.  As such, pepper can be used to represent money in your work.

Cultural Correspondence (USA/Midwest):

Nowadays, especially in the Midwest, we use the word pepper as an idiom that means to pelt or shower someone with something like stones or bullets.  If the word pepper can evoke images of fights and war, it could certainly be used to hex someone.

Sigil to Invoke Black Pepper

Utilize this sigil as a way of invoking the properties of black pepper if you have none available to you.  You are welcome to print this sigil, place it in a grimoire, use it on a spell or put it in your blog with proper credit.  Do not claim this sigil as your own.

McCormick Science Institute: Black Pepper Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise.
Today I Found Out: A Brief History of Pepper Off the Spice Rack: The Story of Pepper
The Spice Acadamy: Peppercorn: A Very Brief History
Idioms by The Free Dictionary: pepper with

**Images were found via a search labeled for reuse.
If you would like an image removed or credited, please let me know.**



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