Probably next to coffee, the cash crop you would see in abundance in Coorg is pepper. In fact pepper is mostly goown as an inter crop with coffee, meaning you’ll see a lo of pepper cultivation along with the coffee in the same plantation.
While coffee is a bushy plant, pepper is a vine that needs a support tree. That said pepper is not grown on the coffee plants. Rather coffee needs a good deal of shade trees (about 30%) in a plantation for its efficient growth and yield. Pepper vines are grown on these shade trees that dots the plantation. The pepper vine branches horizontally around the support plant and make the pepper vine appear like a bushy plant.
The Pepper leaves are heart-shaped. The tender ones appear bright green while the matures leaves are a of a lot darker shade of green. What is harvested of pepper plant is its fruits, called peppercorn.
The peppercorn shoots look as tightly knitted beads, a few inches long hanging from the stem of the pepper vine. The ripe pepper berries in this shoot turn bright red. However harvesting is done much before the fruit turn red.
Once the peppercorn in the form of shoots are cut from the vine, its is dried and cured.
In Coorg you can see this done on (bamboo) wicks mats. In fact dried pepper is one of the souvenirs people buy on their return from Coorg, especially those stay in the plantation stays or home stays in Coorg.
So that’s a quick overview of pepper in Coorg. To top it up here are some trivia. Pepper is native of India. During ‘those days’ of spice trading a kg of pepper costed more than a kg of gold. Even today pepper is the largest traded spice in the world. No wonder pepper earned the nick name ‘The King of Spices’ and ‘Black Gold’.