Black Pepper is a vine indigenous to Kerala. Towards the end of the B.C era, Kerala was doing excellent business in ginger, turmeric and black pepper. It is estimated that the Roman Empire spent 10 crore Sestertii every year for purchasing spices from India, China and Arabia and of all the spices, Black Pepper was a favourite in Rome.
Romans considered Black Pepper as valuable as Gold and Silver. In Roman ports, the cargo was examined for pepper and appropriate tax was levied. When “Alaric the Goth”:http://itsa.ucsf.edu/~snlrc/encyclopaedia_romana/greece/paganism/alaric.html attacked Rome in AD 408, he asked for 3000 lbs for pepper in return for not attacking the capital.
This picture of a vine of black pepper was taken in my backyard during the recent India trip.
While Black Pepper was the gold equivalent during ancient times, the gold equivalent now in Kerala is “Vanilla”:http://www.sulekha.com/redirectnh.asp?cid=327790.
bq. Known as the prince of spices, vanilla is fetching better prices in the market than even gold. Today almost everyone in Kerala, from farmers and engineers to lawyers and housewives, is cultivating vanilla. Many have already become rupee millionaires.