- The Plate
Peppers: Can You Take the Heat?
Ever since, the Duke, traditionally the eldest son of the reigning monarch, has been entitled to a yearly gift of a hunting bow, a pair of gilt spurs, two greyhounds, a load of firewood, and a pound of peppercorns.
This last was no shabby present. Pepper, for much of European history, was literally worth its weight in gold. Rome bought off both the Visigoths and Attila the Hun with pepper; rents and dowries were paid in pepper; judges were bribed with pepper. A medieval serf who managed to scrape together a pound of pepper could use it to buy his or her freedom.
The pepper that Europeans so valued was black pepper, the tongue-tingling fruit of Piper nigrum, a climbing vine