It's interesting to think what the world would be like without pepper. It would certainly be a much duller place, and not just for our taste buds. In 408 A.D. Attila the Hun demanded a huge quantity of pepper as ransom during the siege of Rome. Then consider for a moment that one of the major reasons for Europe's expansion and eventual colonization of south-east Asia was the pursuit of that small hard black seed.

In the 16th century, pepper was a currency preferred more than gold. According to the Encyclopedia of Spices, pepper was so valuable that dock workers were prohibited from wearing clothing with pockets or cuffs for fear they would make off with a few peppercorns. The Venetians controlled the supply, which was transported overland. Fed up with high prices, the Portuguese set out to find a sea route, which took them to India and later to the Malay peninsula, where the various city-states at the time were vassals of the king of Siam.

Eventually, so fierce was the competition for pepper from southern Siam (modern day Thailand) that it lead in part to a blockade of Bangkok by western powers to force concessions from the king. The output of pepper in Siam around that time was estimated to be around 3,000 tons. The new world's first millionaire, Elias Derby of the Salem colony, made his money importing pepper and went on to endow Yale University. Even now, pepper accounts for a quarter of the global spice trade.

The Thais typically use pepper that has been washed, which makes it look like white pepper, but the taste is not the same. Coarsely ground pepper like that called for in most western recipes is never used. Thai recipes will either call for whole peppercorns, which are ground together with other spices, or if ground pepper is called for, Thais will use pepper that has been ground to a fine powder.

A number of stir-fry recipes will call for fresh green pepper. This is pepper fresh off the vine, and easily available in markets all over the kingdom. Green peppercorns have a very short shelf life. They will begin to blacken within a few days of being picked. Cooks will typically use whole sprigs of green pepper, without separating the seeds from the vine.

Weight Information
1 tsp, ground 2.3 g
1 tbsp, ground 6.9 g
1 tsp, whole 2.9 g
1 dash 0.1 g
Nutritional Information for 1 tsp, ground
Energy 5.773
Protein 0.23897 20.000 1%
Total lipid (fat) 0.07498 65.000 0%
Carbohydrate, by difference 1.47085 300.000 0%
Fiber, total dietary 0.5819 25.000 2%
Calcium, Ca 10.189 1000.000 1%
Iron, Fe 0.22333 18.000 1%
Magnesium, Mg 3.933 400.000 1%
Phosphorus, P 3.634 1000.000 0%
Potassium, K 30.567 3500.000 1%
Sodium, Na 0.46 2400.000 0%
Zinc, Zn 0.02737 15.000 0%
Copper, Cu 0.03059 2.000 2%
Manganese, Mn 0.293319 2.000 15%
Selenium, Se 0.1127 70.000 0%
Thiamin 0.002484 1.500 0%
Riboflavin 0.00414 1.700 0%
Niacin 0.026289 20.000 0%
Pantothenic acid 0.032177 10.000 0%
Vitamin B-6 0.006693 2.000 0%
Folate, total 0.391 400.000 0%
Folate, food 0.391 400.000 0%
Carotene, beta 7.13
Carotene, alpha 0.276
Vitamin A, IU 12.581 5000.000 0%
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.02392
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 3.7651 80.000 5%
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.032016 20.000 0%
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.016997
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.022954