Black pepper is the fruit of Piper nigrum, a vine that grows up to 12 feet tall in tropical climes. Pepper is picked green and dried in the sun; a black fungus, Glomerella cingulata, grows on the skins and turns them black. The best and largest peppercorns, tellicherry, are grown on the Indian coast of Malabar. Store them away from sunlight and high heat, and grind pepper only as needed.
The ins and outs of black pepper.