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Old 01/15/10, 12:08 PM
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Can you grow your own black pepper?

I was wondering could the average person grow his own black pepper?
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Old 01/15/10, 01:18 PM
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I don't think so, unless you live in a tropical or semitropical area. Peppertree is not frost hardy and will die in freezing weather. You might be able to grow it in Florida or southern California though. Here's a company that can sell you pepper seed.

Chinese peppercorn though is supposed to be hardy to zone 5-6, and I'm looking for a seed/seedling source for that. It's not pepper, but it is a seasoning that grows on a cold hardy tree.

Last edited by Michael Kawalek; 01/15/10 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 01/15/10, 01:28 PM
A.T. Hagan
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Hawaii or southernmost Florida otherwise it's a greenhouse plant. Jene's Tropicals down to St. Pete sold the plants when last I looked.

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Old 01/15/10, 01:51 PM
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I never considered that. So maybe greenhouse planting would work? How large do this type of plant/tree get?

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Old 01/15/10, 01:59 PM
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I started cayene plants in case I don't for some reason have black pepper.
My concern with black pepper is the amount I would get per plant.
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Old 01/15/10, 02:19 PM
A.T. Hagan
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It's not what I would call a practical greenhouse plant unless you're already into growing other sensitive tropicals.

Here's some reading about it:

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Old 01/15/10, 04:21 PM
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Juniper berries are a substitute

FYI -- I've used these as seasoning for roasts and I like the taste. Bare in mind that the berries on juniper bushes are in several stages of ripness. You want the darkest ones on the bush (the green ones aren't yet ripe for this though they may be the ones used for gin?).
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Old 01/15/10, 05:19 PM
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We had a peppertree in So. Cal that produced a lot!
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Old 01/15/10, 05:24 PM
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peppertrees are toxic and are not I repeat NOT to be used!!!!!! POISON
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Old 01/15/10, 05:24 PM
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Something that may be a sorta-substitute is crushed red pepper. I use the storebought kind, but I read all you have to do is dry out red peppers and crush them with a hammer, seeds and all.
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Old 01/15/10, 06:16 PM
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Someone once told me that dried sumac berries, ground up, make a pretty acceptable pepper substitute, but I've never tried it.
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Old 01/15/10, 06:24 PM
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There seems to be some confusion here. Black pepper is NOT related to cayenne pepper or any of the other 'peppers' mentioned.

Cayenne pepper comes from a particular species of Capsicum, (either Capsicum minimum or C. baccatum) and is one of many species better called 'chillies'. Common ones are Anaheim, Poblano, Jalapeno, Hot Thai - and there are dozens more. Products labelled 'red pepper flakes' or similar are actually chillies ie members of the Capsicum family. Not pepper at all.

I won't confuse you further by mentioning Cubebs (False Peppercorns, Piper cubeba, which is closely related to black pepper), or Monk's Pepper (Chaste-berries, Vitex agnus-castus).

I am not familiar with the peppertree referred to by StacyS. It is probably a member of the Schinus family, and very likely to be Schinus terebinthifolius, which is a very invasive species. This plant is poisonous to humans and animals, and is closely related to rhus trees and poison ivy (and has similar effects!).

For the white or black or green peppercorns (which result in the spice known as pepper, as in 'pepper and salt'), you need to grow a pepper plant, Piper nigrum. It's not a tree, it's a vine. As already mentioned, it's a tropical or subtropical plant.

Propagate by seeds, planted 1cm deep, or by cuttings. Needs plenty of water, shade, humidity and heat. It takes 3-4 years before the first fruit can be harvested. Plants are most productive when about 8 years old but will continue bearing for up to 30 years. A single stem will bear 20-30 fruiting spikes. Each spike may produce 50 or more single-seeded fruits. In the wild, plants grow in humid, tropical areas where they grow among trees, shaded by their leaves and supported by their branches. The plant needs a support such as a trellis. It will grow well when its roots are waterlogged and is suitable for planting near a pond. Hardy to 0C although growth will retard and damage may occur below 4C.

Clusters of peppercorns are harvested after 3 years from planting the cuttings. For black peppercorns, harvest the berries before they are fully ripe, when they are still green, then dry. For white peppercorns, berries should be picked once they are fully ripe and the red outer shell removed, leaving a grey-white kernel. Green peppercorns can be preserved in brine before drying.

You will not be able to grow a pepper vine from the peppercorns you buy in the supermarket. They have been treated to prevent germination. Best to buy a living plant, probably from a mail-order company such as Richters.
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Old 01/15/10, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by StaceyS View Post
We had a peppertree in So. Cal that produced a lot!
Originally Posted by dancingfatcat View Post
peppertrees are toxic and are not I repeat NOT to be used!!!!!! POISON
They're only toxic to certain species of animals and in small children (vomiting and diarrhea) if too many of them are eaten fresh. However, they are not supposed to be eaten fresh. Birds eat them fresh without problems.

The pepper berries are dried and crushed, used as a culinary spice in the food industry. Specialty restaurants and food industry suppliers here import them from California. They are absolutely delicious with a distinct fruity-peppery flavour and I use them myself in a variety of recipes. There's more information about them here.

Known as Peruvian Pepper (Schinus molle), also known as American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, escobilla, false pepper, molle del Peru, pepper tree, peppercorn tree, Californian pepper tree, pirul and Peruvian mastic.

The trees are very beautiful. See pics:

fruit and leaves of California pepper tree:


Last edited by naturelover; 01/15/10 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 01/15/10, 11:06 PM
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Yes, the trees are beautiful and they do grow quite large and fast. Have a wonderful peppery smell and little red/pink berries and is very messy. But, after researching it a few years ago, I decided against trying it. Thanks though
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Old 01/16/10, 12:23 PM
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Culpeper - thanks for all the information. I think as a fairly new homesteader I will be steering clear of this for now!
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Old 01/16/10, 04:52 PM
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We grow Horseradish, dry and powder. My Dw uses it as a substitute for black pepper.
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Old 01/17/10, 02:02 AM
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Papaya seeds have sort of a peppery flavor if you'd like to try those instead of peppervine.

The peppervine doesn't get that big, if you had a moist warm greenhouse you could probably grow some in there. My friends let theirs grow on their treefern and it produces a lot of peppers. The peppercorns are produced in interesting hanging spirals.
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Old 01/17/10, 02:01 PM
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You should be able to grow it if you brought it in during the winter.
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