Kampot's Prize Pepper

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Kampot's Prize Pepper

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:21 am

The world’s most prized pepper?
Only by the late ‘90s, long after the Khmer Rouge lost power, did local farmers – many with generations’ of peppercorn farming running through their veins – return to their roots.
By Robert Reid
16 January 2020

A recent re-emergence of a flowering vine that grows on poles in south-east Cambodia is the product of a local strategy paved with the best of intentions. But the road to reach the farms is not paved at all.

It wakes the palate and enhances the taste of other foods

I learned this in a tunnel of dust, as I rode a motorbike around tuk-tuks on red-dirt roads. Once I stopped for a mask to fend off the dust, the scene was stunning: water buffaloes wading through flooded rice fields by lush hills home to bat-filled caves housing ruins older than Angkor Wat. Ahead, outside the city of Kampot, loomed local farms where the quartz-rich soil produces the world’s premier organic peppercorns.

At least eight centuries ago, locals began growing this peppercorn vine, which is native to Kerala, India, and had spread to Southeast Asia. But the “Kampot pepper” – as it’s now christened – only became a global product after French colonials got their taste buds on it. In the late 1800s, the French set up plantations, growing the peppercorns on 10-foot bamboo poles and then exported vast amounts of them back home where they became – as the late Anthony Bourdain cooed on his TV show No Reservations – “the tabletop standard for all of France.”

In the 1970s, however, the brutal Khmer Rouge regime viewed the peppercorns as a symbol of colonialism and forced farmers to grow rice instead. Only by the late ‘90s, long after the Khmer Rouge lost power, did local farmers – many with generations’ of peppercorn farming running through their veins – return to their roots. At the time, farmers were impoverished, so they turned back to what they knew: the same farming practices that had run in their families for generations – and nearly all did it on small plots of land.

Although Kampot pepper prices peaked when red pepper sold for $25 per kilogram in 2014 and have dropped off slightly since – particularly as cheaper Vietnamese pepper has taken over the world market in recent years – farmers here bank on the lasting appeal of Kampot pepper’s superior quality as a selling point, primarily for European buyers. It’s all produced organically, as the locally run Kampot Pepper Promotion Association mandates, with the perfect amount of sun and fertile soil to make it a pepper worth paying extra for.

In 2010, this “comeback” pepper earned Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the World Trade Organization, becoming to pepper what Champagne is to sparkling wine or Prosciutto di Parma is to ham.
Full article: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/2020011 ... zed-pepper
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