A Few Related Pipers

These are some of the plants belonging to the Piperaceae family.  I find them quite fascinating becasue they are used in many of our local cuisine so i grow some of them in my little backyard. 

The most famous of them all is non other than the Pepper vine (Piper nigrum) where black pepper and white pepper comes from.  This is a very easy plant to grow and produces many bunches of green pepper seeds which turns red if left on the vine.  I got interested in the pepper vine not because of the ground pepper that we use in many of our dishes but after a visit to Chiang Rai. At Chiang Rai we booked a tour to the Golden Triangle and had lunch at the food stalls beside the Mekong River.  One of the dishes we ordered was a local Northern Thai dish with sliced pork belly, thai ginger, vegetables and strings of green pepper; all fried to perfection in a savoury thai-style sauce. So i must get my hands on some bunches of green peppers in order to re-create the dish at home.  After growing the vine for about 6 months, it produced about 10 strings of peppers which is not too bad.  The pic below shows the strings of peppers near the base of the vine.

The next Piper is Piper sarmentosum, also known as Piper lolot probably because the Vietnamese name for the leave is 'la lot'.  This is an important plant used in many South-East Asian dishes where the leaves are used as a wrap or in salads.  It is also known as 'Cha Phlu' in Thai and 'Kadok' in Malay.  It is the leaf used in the popular Thai dish call 'Mieng Kham'. In Singapore, we hardly use this leave in our diet ( our greens are quite limited ) but we see lots of this plant in our parks and gardens, thanks to Npark and our many Landscaping contractors.  This plant is not only easy to grow, it can become invasive if allowed to roam freely.

My last Piper is the stimulating betel, Piper betle.  This is an extremely important plant for many cultures where betel quid is consumed.  It contains betel leaf, areca nut (Pinang), slaked lime and often tobacco as well. This is the stuff that stains the saliva and makes the mouth red; a stimulant that keeps many long distance truck drivers awake in Taiwan.  This leave has a lemony acidic taste, stronger and sharper than Kadok and leaves a trail in the throat.  I've used the tender young leaves to wrap pieces of fish meat and the combination is very good and healthy as well.  The pic below shows the beautiful young leaves climbing onto a pvc pipe.