All peppercorns, be they black, white or green, come from the tropical vine belonging to the plant famliy 'Piperaceae'. Although the pepper plant had its origin in India, a large demand for the spice has necessitated commercial cultivation in several parts of South-East Asia as well.
When fully ripened berries (from the pepper vine), with their outer covering removed, are allowed to ferment naturally in the sun - the result is creamy, white peppercorns.
Pepper has a sharp, hot and biting taste. It's a warming spice. It is one of the oldest and important spices in the world. So important, that in ancient times it was used to pay taxes. In 410 A.D, when the Huns lay seige of Rome, 3000 pounds of pepper was demanded as ransom.
India holds a supreme position in the production of pepper. Two of its celebrated varieties are 'Malabar Garbled' and 'Tellichery Extra bold'. The finest Indian pepper is grown in the monsoon forests of the Malabar coast in Kerala.
Pepper is extensively used in the wintry cusine of North India, to impart warmth and pungency to veg. dishes. In the South, it is used as a flavouring spice in non-veg preparations. Pepper incidently is an important spice in the Indian four-spice classic 'garam masala'. Pepper corns boiled in water along with basil leaves, are said to relieve chest congestions and asthematic condition.