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Please pass the popular pepper!

It was known as Black Gold by merchants in the Ancient World. In today’s world, black pepper is the most popular spice on the planet, commonly found in nearly every American kitchen sitting next to the salt shaker. (Fact: Salt is not a spice, it’s a mineral.) Stories from the ages tell of other fascinating uses of that black pepper shaker.

Pepper cultivation began thousands of years ago in India where it is native. It comes from the berries of the flowering vine called Piper nigrum. Picked green, they are dried and then ground.

In India black pepper was used extensively on foods and as a medicine, as well. Traders introduced it to other parts of the ancient world, and pepper reached global popularity with the rise of the Roman Empire.

In the Middle Ages pepper continued to be a luxury possession but following the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, more countries became involved in spice trading, driving down prices. Once considered the exclusive seasoning of royalty...

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