Pepper has been used as a spice in India since prehistoric times. Pepper is native to India and has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2000 BC J. Innes Miller notes that while pepper was grown in southern Thailand and in Malaysia, its most important source was India, particularly the Malabar Coast, in what is now the state of Kerala. Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good, often referred to as “black gold” and used as a form of commodity money. The term “peppercorn rent” still exists today.
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is a small drupe five millimetres in diameter, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described as black pepper, white pepper, red/pink pepper, green pepper, and very often simply pepper. The terms pink peppercorns, red pepper, and green pepper are also used to describe the fruits of other, unrelated plants.