This is a continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Black Peppercorns.
**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 black, green, white, 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.
How to Grow Black Peppercorns
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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!
**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!