Pepper is one of the oldest known and most valuable spices and was the main commodity traded along the caravan routes of the East. It was through the global pepper trade that European cities such as Venice and London rose to wealth and influence.
Black & white peppercorns come from the dried unripe and ripe berries respectively (although white peppercorns are less aromatic). In tradition Chinese medicine, black pepper is used to combat dysentery, diarrhoea and vomiting. Black pepper is known to enhance the effect of stomach juices, which does wonders for digestion.
The pepper tree has oval leaves about 15cm (6in) long, and tiny white flowers on pendulous spikes. Both forms are available, either mono or dioecious and are usually found on separate plants. Pepper can be propagated from seed, cutting or by division and prefers rich, well-drained soil in light shade and high humidity.