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The island of Madagascar is located in Africa on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. Its biodiversity is of an unparalleled richness. Indeed, the island has been separated from the African continent for 100 million years. The absence of certain predators have allowed a unique evolution of the fauna and flora. Thus, about 80% of its animal and plant species are endemic (natives). But the country is also in a situation of extreme poverty with high food insecurity…
The island of Madagascar is rich in spices and has always played an important role in the spice trade. The country is an important player in the cultivation and trading of pepper but also vanilla and cloves for example.
The origin of the pepper is Indian, coming from the equatorial forests of southwest India. Then, the spice has quickly spread all over the world. It was one of the first Indian spices to be introduced in the West.
In Europe, it is an important spice since its discovery in antiquity. The pepper has a great role in the cuisine but also in the medical field (more detail here).
In this article, we will give an overview of the types of pepper and the main producing countries. Then, we will discuss the case of Voatsiperifery wild pepper pepper from Madagascar.
Pepper types in the world
Piper nigrum (latin name) is a vine that grows on a stake. The plant requires a specific temperature and abundant rainfall for growth.
During the harvest, the parts used are small grapelike berries, dried parts and fruits of the perennial pepper plant. Furthermore, it is important to know that the post-harvest handling will give the pepper its final color and flavor.
There are different types of pepper in the world. Some countries cultivate specific varieties of Pepper nigrum. A recent study from the FAOSTAT in 2019 said that 34% of the black pepper produced in the world comes from Ethiopia. Then, come Vietnam (24%), Brazil (10%), Indonesia (8%) and India (6%), China (3%), Malaysia (3%).
Nowadays, Madagascar is still an important producer that distinguishes itself by the quality of its pepper. More particularly the wild pepper of Voatsiperifery.
A world overview below:
- Piper longum, or long pepper from Cambodia
- Piper capense, or Timiz pepper from Ethiopia
- Piper cubeba or cubeb pepper from Java and Sumatra islands, Indonesia
- Piper retrofactum or long pepper from Java, Indonesia
- Piper borbonense or Voatsiperifery pepper from Madagascar
There are also four colors of Piper nigrum depending to the degree of maturity at harvest:
1. Green pepper: its berries are picked immature and put in brine.
2. Black pepper: its berries are harvested before maturity and dried.
3. Red pepper: rarer, its berries are harvested at maturity (see overripe) and dried.
4. White pepper: its berries are picked when ripe, dried and then of their shells (pericarp).
We can also mentionned the Grey pepper: it is a crushed black pepper which owes its color to the the mixture of the black pericardium and the white heart.
The Voatsiperifery wild pepper of Madagascar
The wild pepper of Voatsiperifery is quite easily recognizable by its small tail. This variety of pepper (Piper borbonense) grows wild in the rainforest of southeast Madagascar. The color of the pepper is red and can vary depending on the duration and type of drying post-harvest.
The ethymology of voatsiperifery comes from the combination of the word “voa” which means fruit and “tsiperifery” which is the name of the plant in Malagasy dialects or malagazy.
This pepper is found only in the wild, it is picked (harvested) by hand only at a specific time of the year between June and August. The lianas can reach 20 to 30m high which makes it a perilous exercise. It is a rare and precious spice.
Local farmers indicate that it takes about 10 kg of fresh berries for 1 kg of dried pepper. The drying process is done under the sun in Madagascar.
The taste of wild pepper is different compared to Piper nigrum by its aromas of flowers, wood and citrus. In conclusion, its aroma is woody floral.
CIRAD: Etude de différents schémas de vie mis en œuvre sur le Tsiperifery poivre sauvage malgache Observation et description des étapes postrécoltes d’un produit à haute valeur ajoutée Annaïg Levesque Juillet Novembre 2012 (lien)
“Pepper (piper spp.), World regions/Production/Crops for 2019 (from pick list)”. Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Statistical Division (FAOSTAT). 2019. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
Terres de poivres: Piper nigrum