For all the ingredients that may be lined up on the kitchen shelf, pepper still stands for its vast applications. The spice offers a twist of taste in dishes containing savoury items such as broiled, grilled or fried foodstuffs uniquely because of its flavour and pungency.
This kind of tang is often used to define pepper quality and is usually described as ‘hotness’.
Because of this hotness, care should be taken when simmering pepper on foodstuff or spicing up dishes.
However, to offer customers a unique familiarity of taste, processed derivatives such as Chilli Sauce that come with mild hotness are available at most shopping points.
Good strategy but does pepper have any nutritional value?
Nutritional composition of pepper
Vitamin A and K, dietary fibre, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, capsaicin are some but not all of the nutrients presented on nutritional fact tables on pepper.
According to Asiimwe Nsenga, a foods expert at Bamboo Restaurant, a Chinese Restaurant in Nyarugenge District, Kigali, pepper can be used in a variety of recipes to modify taste.
“Depending on choice, meals like the hotpot and salty sauces usually have pepper added to improve taste and enhance appetite,” Nsenga says.
Choice for use usually relies on the type of pepper required for a particular recipe. Pepper types have been developed from various methods of food processing to suit usage.
Types of pepper
White pepper is the most commonly used pepper in Europe to produce white sauces, poultry, and cream soups and fish because the other types are likely to produce visible specks if used for these kinds of dishes.
Production of white pepper is slightly different because a mature berry is given a short water bath to remove the husks which thereafter is dried. Removing the husks inhibits the formation of the dark color.
Common processing of ordinary pepper results into pepper powder or peppercorns and besides white pepper either black pepper or green pepper may be produced.
Black pepper is the most pungent and strongest in flavor of the three. Before the berry is fully ripe, it is harvested, sun dried to produce black pepper.
As the pepper dries, enzymatic activity causes the color of the hull to change. The pepper can then be ground to vary its coarseness.
But picking the berries long enough before they are fully ripe results into production of green pepper.
Unlike black pepper, green pepper is usually freeze dried to inhibit enzymatic activity while maintaining its colour.
Experts say pepper can be blended with lemon, garlic, coriander to improve its taste and further boost its health benefit.
Health benefits of pepper
According to Dr Andrew Well, a medical doctor in Philadelphia, US, mixed spices used for culinary purposes may usually provide enhanced nutritional effects.
“When mixed with other spices, pepper provides a vast number of advantages because of its antioxidant activity,” Well says in an online article.
Although pepper is an antioxidant and antibacterial agent, it also helps fight some ailments, including heart burns, abdominal pains, indigestion resulting from inadequate stomach juices.
Pepper also stimulates the taste buds, which signal the stomach walls to produce hydrochloric acid to enhance food digestion.
This prevents intestinal pain, constipation, arthritis, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, flu, fluid retention, mental exhaustion, poor memory, tumour, ulcers and weakness.
This aromatic stimulant is also good for the urinary tract system, nausea and dealing with skin conditions such as hives. Capsaicin is also known to block the cancer forming compounds in smoked meat products.
Other non-health benefits of pepper include its usage in perfumes and insecticides as a toxicant. This could explain why care should be taken when using pepper.