Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Pepper Chronicles

The food of the Indian sub-continent has a distinction like none other –  food was not merely a medium to fill the stomach – it was a highly evolved science that had documented recipes, preservation methods and nutrition enhancement techniques built into it – and all this as early as pre-historic times.  No wonder the Indian sub-continent is one among the “Cradle of Civilizations”!!

And hence, it is no wonder that food assumed unparalleled importance in these civilizations. From being considered offering to Gods (Prasad, Naivedyam etc) to being compared to medicines in the Ayurveda, food has been assigned the highest position of purity and worship.

In fact, food was almost always sustenance with medicinal properties. Almost all the ingredients that were added, were done not only for taste, but also with an inherent healing property. And leading that list is our very own “black gold” – the black pepper.




Black pepper is one of the reasons India was a hot destination (pun intended!) for traders from across the globe – from Portuguese to Arabs, every trader who wanted to make it big came in search of this beautiful fruit which when dried and powdered, seduced the taste buds. No surprises why pepper is the most traded spice in the world!

Our forefathers knew various life hacks that this little fiery fruit brought to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets alike. We have also (albeit with a tiny bit of contempt and skepticism), listened to moms and grandmoms tell us how pepper is better than any “firangi medicine” to cure our common ailments. 

But guess what – these life hacks work! And motherhood is when I discovered most of them, since these were quick, effective home remedies, and one did not have to worry about side effects. So here goes: 

  1. Add it to any savory dish to create a whopping flavor – continental, Indian, Chinese – you name it! Salads and steak to soups and buttermilk – use it for the zing. 
  2. Digestive issues (well, most of them) are caused by the lowered production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach (for those of you who bunked bio class – yes! Your body produces it). Pepper is known to increase production of this acid in the stomach – which is why appetizers work wonderfully well with a healthy dose of pepper. Think pepper Rasam and you know what I’m talking about. 
  3. Further with digestion, it aids in relieving gas issues. For people who complain of gas (the lower body kinds, not to be confused with the ones that people have in their heads – no cure for that!) try replacing red chilly powder in your food, with black pepper powder.
  4. Every Mom in India knows this – drink a concoction that has pepper, either with honey or with ginger, to clear up the stuffy nose and chest congestion – absolutely safe for children.
  5. Dandruff issues? Have no fear – black pepper is here. Mix about a teaspoon of crushed pepper to a bowl of curd. Apply to scalp for 30 minutes and wash off with cold (remember, never hot water!) water. Do not use shampoo. The antibacterial properties of pepper is good for any infection including dandruff.
  6. Due to the same antibacterial property, pepper is a magical fix for acne as well. Crush pepper, and mix with some rose water, and use as a scrub – do remember to scrub gently!
  7. Adding pepper in your regular diet will ensure you have a skin that is more resistant to ageing than most others
  8. Remember the way you sweat when you have pepper? Well, that is another superhero property – pepper flushes out toxins and other icky stuff out of the body by causing sweating and increased urination.
  9. Here’s a bonus for all who speak the metabolism jargon – pepper spikes up your metabolism rate. Translated into simple-folk language – it aids in weightloss (yay!!) if added in small quantities to your (healthy) meal. Adding it to Maharaja Mac doesn’t count, sadly.
  10. To maximize the good properties of pepper, store pepper whole, and crush it when you need it. Use a good pepper mill – grinding it in the grinder will produce heat, lowering the effectiveness and the flavor.
  11. Ants bothering you? Black pepper to the rescue! Just sprinkle black pepper in those corners and in between drawers to keep ants away! (hmmm..... much like pepper spray for other kinds of pests!)
  12. Kids colorful clothes fading too fast? Just add a teaspoon of black pepper to one load of colored clothes to wash and the colors remain bright.
  13. Trying to quit smoking? Try smelling black pepper – research has shown that the inhaling pepper oil causes reduced craving for nicotine.
  14. Pepper is a ‘warming’ spice. Using pepper oil mixed with a carrier oil (that's any oil like olive, coconut, etc) to massage aching muscles after a heavy workout, or using it for arthritic joints will help relieve the pain.


Hoping you stock up your kitchen cupboard with this wonder spice, and find these life hacks useful. Do write back in the comments if you have tried any of this, or if you have any more interesting uses of pepper. Happy winters!

2 comments:

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