SUN-RIPENED PEPPER FRUITS BURST WITH COMPLEX HEAT
Parameswaran, a farmer who runs an estate on the tropical Malabar Coast, has been growing the world’s most delicious pepper in secret. Black pepper is the fruit of the flowering piper vine. When it’s almost ripe, it’s picked, then dried in the sun.
Traditionally, it’s got an earthy aroma with a bit of sinus-clearing bite, and the flavour is laced with camphor. Pepper grown in the Wynad district of the Kerala province is the most sought after in India, the soil and 2,500ft altitude make for a particularly healthy piper vine.
Parameswaran’s Wynad estate is a hilly, green place where elephants and tigers roam. Mostly, he grows rice and coffee, but he began growing pepper for personal use, and he only began selling it at the urging of dinner guests. There’s a primary difference between his pepper and others; he waits until the piper fruits are fully ripe, resulting in a spice that’s not black, but light-brown, with a complex, warm, sweet fragrance, and a floral, spiced flavour. It’s hotter, too. It’s also best when it’s allowed to be the star in a salad or cacio e pepe, rather than letting its delicate flavours drown in some godforsaken “hearty” stew.