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Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Black Peppercorns, Spices | 20 comments

How to Grow Black Peppercorns

This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Black Peppercorns.

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**In ancient times, black pepper was considered the “King of Spices” and it was more valuable than gold. One’s social standing was even measured by how much black pepper was owned by the household.

**One of the reasons it was so valuable was that Black peppercorns were a closely guarded secret by the Arab traders that traded them to the Western world. This increased the desire for the black pepper, so that in medieval times, some European countries even used it as a currency.

**Today, it is possible to find blackgreenwhite, and pink/red peppercorns in most grocery stores. These colors are from the same peppercorn: black ones are the dried immature fruit of the peppercorn plant; green peppercorns are the black ones immersed in boiling water; white pepper is the inner portion of the black peppercorns; and pink/red ones are ripened completely on the vine by turning from green to yellow to pinkish red.

 

This post is about How to Grow Black Peppercorns.

I have also written about the Medicinal Benefits of Black Peppercorns as well as the Culinary Uses of Black Peppercorns.

 

How to Grow Black Peppercorns

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**Black Peppercorns are similar to grapes, as they both grow on perennial vines. Pepper vines can grow to heights of over 30 feet and can become unruly if not properly taken care of. You can trellis the vines for a look similar to that of grapevines but you can only have them outdoors in zones 10 or higher, otherwise, you can grow them indoors, similar to the vanilla vines.

**The pepper vines have large, shiny leaves with spiky stalk-like clusters called ‘catkins’ that are filled with the fruit (the peppercorns) of the vine. After the peppercorns bud, they turn dark green, which is when they are to be picked and dried.

**Peppercorns can be slow growing and take a few years to start flowering, so if you buy a small plant and especially if you are growing by seed, you can encourage growth by keeping the plant under bright light and warmer than 65 degrees in your home or greenhouse. The flowers will be cream-colored and will bloom in the summer months and lead to your harvest of peppercorns.

**Do not plant peppercorns bought at the grocery store because they have been dried and are usually treated so that they will not germinate. Instead, you will need to order peppercorns from a garden center or online, or buy existing plants.

 

Position:

**Unless you live somewhere where the temperature does not get below 65 degrees F and does not get frost, you will need to grow the peppercorn vines in your house or your greenhouse. Fortunately, they make great container plants.

**In nature, peppercorn vines prefer filtered light and not direct sunlight, they love heat, and they want constantly moist soil. You can move your peppercorn plant outdoors in the warm temperatures; just make sure to place it outdoors in the dappled shade. If it is indoors, you will need to observe what your plant needs: start with a partial sun location, and move it into more light if your plant is starting to struggle or if you are trying to encourage its’ growth to get your harvests quicker.

**Do not forget: this plant is a vine, so if you are in a cooler zone and will be moving the peppercorn plant outdoors in the summer, plan to use a container with a secure trellis-type structure that will not fall over when moved back and forth from indoors to outdoors.

 

Propagation:

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**You can propagate from seeds, just know that it will be a few years before you get a harvest of peppercorns. Soak the seeds for 1-2 days to promote germination. Sow the seeds in a 5 gallon container with a sturdy trellis (this looks like a good one) pushed up against one of the container’s sides. Sow in equal parts potting soil and peat moss. Keep the soil very warm (75-85 degrees F) and give the seeds lots of moisture.

**You can also buy a small plant (like this one)so that you get a harvest of peppercorns quicker.

 

Maintenance:

**Feed your plant with a 10-10-10 fertilizer once every 1 or 2 weeks, except in the winter, where you should not give your plant fertilizer.

**Water consistently: do not allow your peppercorn plant to dry out or get overwatered, as both will lead to root rot.

**As the vine grows, secure it to a trellis with gardening tape to maintain a clean, organized shape.

**For pollination, it flowers in the summer, so you can place your plant outdoors during the summer months to allow the proper bugs to pollinate your plant to give you a good harvest. You could also try hand-pollination, but the flowers are very small, so this will be time-consuming.

 

Harvesting:

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**Experiment with the harvesting: whether to harvest when immature and black, or to wait until they become ripe and red. Each color, remember, will take on a slightly different flavor.

**Once picked, you dry them as you wish: either on a screen in the sun for many days, or in a food dehydrator for a few days. You want them completely dry. At this point, you can figure out if you want green or white peppercorn and act accordingly (green ones are boiled in water, white ones are the inside of the black ones).

**After drying, they are ready for use. Store them in a sealed container in a dry, cool location out of direct sunlight.

 

 

**Do YOU have a Peppercorn plant? If so, how is it growing for you and how are your harvests? If not, do you think you will in the future? Please leave comments below, as I love to hear about other gardens!

**Please remember to learn more about Black Peppercorns by checking out my link on their Medicinal Benefits as well as my link on their Culinary Uses.

**Don’t forget to check out my other spices as well!

**Do you love the black peppercorn illustrations for this post like I do? My friend Christy Beckwith from Christy Beckwith Illustrations made them for me and guess what? You can buy them! Check out her work, she has many beautiful masterpieces!
 

 

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DISCLOSURE: > In order for me to support my blogging activities, I occasionally may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust. 
By Cris Daining

20 Comments

  1. Interesting, one of those spices I’ve never thought about as being able to grow myself. We live in zone 3a and keep our thermostat set below 65 during the winter to save on propane so I don’t know that we’d be able to grow them successfully but it was a very interesting, informative article!

    • That’s a bummer about the temps! I did read of people who keep their plant in the bathroom, since those rooms are often the warmest. Just another idea! 🙂 Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • You could try using a plant heating pad under the pot. I hear they work well.

      • That’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Hi,
    It was fascinating for me to learn how to grow black peppercorns. I love the flavor of fresh pepper and herbs. This post was quite valuable. So glad I found your blog via Thank Your Body Thursday!

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting! I love Thank Your Body Thursday! Did you write something there? I will have to swing by and visit your site soon. 🙂

      • You may want to do a correction on your information concerning pink peppercorns. The genus is schinus molle (Peruvian) or schinus terebinthfoiius (Brazilian) and is not a true peppercorn. It is a shrub in the cashew family so allergic reactions can result in people who are nut sensitive.

        • Thanks for the input! I had decided to avoid confusing people by not bringing up the non-true pink peppercorn plant. Real peppercorns can be pinkish-red at a certain point in their ripening phase. I talk a bit about it more in the culinary uses of black peppercorns post (http://www.thehomesteadgarden.com/the-spice-series-black-peppercorns-culinary-uses/). Some call the true peppercorns at this phase ‘red peppercorns’ but some call them ‘pink peppercorns’ which gets confusing since the false ones are also called ‘pink peppercorns’. Whew. That’s why I went with ‘pink/red’ in the description. Perhaps I should add a footnote about this in all of my black peppercorn posts! Thanks again for the input!

  3. Would like to know the drying and boiling processes more. Could you please let me know more about them and where to go to get the seeds. Thanks. This was also very insiteful. I was wondering about the store naughty.. Now I know. But is that the same with all of them from cellory to sesame seeds. I have a long list of them. Thank you…

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting! I will write more about the drying process soon!

  4. About the vanilla vine. Is there a step between the sweating and drying. Could you email me with this answer please thank you. And this website is very informative thank you. Marsha.

  5. Ok, now I want one!!! Or two!!! Add that to my lemon verbena and bay laurel that I have to overwinter inside anyways. At least this wouldn’t be competing for limited window space. It would be the perfect kitchen plant.

    • Awesome! I hope you get one and please, tell me how your plant does! 🙂 Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  6. I have several pepper vines and all are regular producers. The peppercorns do change color at different times and taste different at each color. People who taste them in my garden are always blown away by how intense the pepper flavor is. It is nothing like the dried pepper you buy in the store, much more potent. I live in zone 9 about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico and have never had a problem with frost. I grow the pepper under a natal plum and murraya koenigii along with my vanilla orchids. This winter, and several others, our temperatures have gone down below 32 for a few hours. In the past I have always covered the plants to the best of my ability. This year I just left them uncovered and hoped for the best. I had no damage at all to any of the plants, not even the vanilla. All are beautiful and thriving. Needless to say, I won’t be covering in the future unless temps go below 32 for an extended period of time, longer than 2 or 3 hours.

    • How wonderful! I wish I lived in a warmer zone so I could grow these outdoors! How blessed you are!

  7. My husband and I moved to Costa Rica from Canada a year ago. One of the plants I recently bought was a black pepper and I used the peppercorns today for the first time. So cool!! ???? My husband also built me a herb spiral. I love it! ????

  8. I bought a small peppercorn plant last year and have been growing it in a large pot inside ever since (I live in Virginia). I haven’t seen any sign of growth for a couple of months, but I’m hoping that with the warmer weather coming, I’ll have a chance to put it outside and with some fertilizer, will start to see some growth. The odd thing is that many of the leaves have small, clear globules on them, they sort of look like the microbeads in facial cleansers…any ideas what this might be?

    • No clue! I’ll make this comment public so maybe others can help you!

  9. Hii!!I have planted peppercorn in August 2015. There are only four leaves till now. I put organic fertilizer as well as water it regularly. The temperature here is about 30 deg Celsius. Why is the growth so slow? I enjoyed the information on your site. Thanks.

    • Hmm…that doesn’t sound like a thriving plant! Have you moved it to a larger container with fresh and good soil in it?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. How To Grow And Care For Black Peppercorns - Gardenoholic - […] Black Peppercorns are similar to grapes, as they both grow on perennial vines. Pepper vines can grow to heights…

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