Peppercorn Plant – How to Make Black or White Pepper

Q: How do you grow a peppercorn plant to make either black or white pepper?

A: Peppercorn, Piper nigrum, is a tropical vine that produces 5-inch long spikes of berries. Black pepper is made by soaking the berries until the skins turn black, then drying them intact. White pepper is made by soaking the seed until the skin falls off, revealing the white seed inside. I can see trying to grow peppercorn in a backyard greenhouse but I think the size of the vine and the fact that it takes four years to produce berries would prevent all but the most dedicated gardeners from getting a harvest.