The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Scott Taylor
Taylors Provisions 

Pepper

Eat Well

 

America didn't publish its first cookbook until 1796, but we do have earlier manuscripts. One of those collections of papers belongs to Martha Washington. If you read over those recipes, one spice often repeats - pepper. Pepper was in almost every recipe in colonial America.

Pepper plants are native to the Malabar coast of India, but our original supply in America came from Sumatra. When the British lost the Revolutionary War, they stopped our flow of pepper. The problem was the British had a monopoly on the black pepper trade, and nobody in colonial America knew where black pepper came from.

Then along came the Crowninshield family of Salem, Massachusetts. George Crowninshield heard from another Salem ship captain that black pepper was grown and sold on the northwest coast of Sumatra.

Crowninshield was not one to stand by while others made their fortunes. So, he sent his son John off to Sumatra with instructions to find black pepper and bring it back, and John succeeded. He brought back hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pepper.

The most important thing that John Crowninshield did was to pay a fair price for pepper. He spent about twice as much as the British had been paying, making for excellent relations between Sumatra and America. It made the Crowninshield's fabulously wealthy.

Native to Indonesia and India, pepper is a berry that grows in grape-like clusters. They start out green and then ripen to red.

If you want black pepper or green pepper, you harvest the berries when they're relatively unripe. The longer they're left to ripen on the vine, the less spicy they get.

Black peppercorns are boiled and dried, so their skin wrinkles up and becomes black. Green peppercorns are just the unripe berries, preserved in such a way that their skin stays green.

If you want white pepper, you take just the seed of a quite ripe berry and then dry it. And pink peppercorns aren't pepper at all. They're the fruit of a plant native to Brazil.

Stop by the store and find your favorite pepper. We carry black, green, white, and pink. We even have Szechuan peppercorns for the more daring.

Taylor's Provisions is located at 208 S. Mill St., Tehachapi, near the corner of Mill and F Streets. Part of the Mill Town Marketplace collection of businesses. You can also reach Taylor's at (661) 750-0390.

 
 

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