What is Pepper?

   Pepper is the name for several plants and products. The best known is black pepper, a spice for flavoring food. It comes from a tropical vine native to the East Indies, Thailand and India. Twice a year the vine bears fruit in the form of green berries, which turn red. They are picked, dried in the sun and turn black. Then they are ground into fine, black pepper powder. The whole berries are called peppercorns. To get the best flavor, the peppercorns should be ground in a pepper mill at the time they are to be used.
   White pepper is ground from the same ripe berries, after the dark outer rind has been removed.
Red pepper, not related to either black or white, is the dried, crushed pods of a large variety of hot chilies.
   Green and red peppers found in vegetable markets are from entirely different plants, and their history has always been confused with the common table spice. They are called sweet or bell peppers and are berry-like fruits, related to the tomato and used fresh or cooked in salads, soups, and stews. The red bell pepper is simply the ripened green bell pepper. They were first found in the West Indies by a botanist of the Columbus expedition, who took samples back to Europe with him.