I am black on the outside, clad in a wrinkled cover,
Yet within I bear a burning marrow.
I season delicacies, the banquets of kings, and the luxuries of the table,
Both the sauces and the tenderized meats of the kitchen.
But you will find in me no quality of any worth,
Unless your bowels have been rattled by my gleaming marrow.
– 7th century riddle
The trail of peppercorns can be found scattered throughout human history, back to antiquity and beyond. This tiny black berry has been a currency, a reason for the Age of Discovery and a cause of national conflict, and today is found universally, in every pantry and on every dining table. From its native home on the Monsoon coast of India, it has come to be grown all over the world, in a dazzling array of varieties. It is prized for its warm, spicy flavour and also for its medicinal properties, and remains the world’s most traded spice.