Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit is a drupe (stonefruit) which is about 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter (fresh and fully mature), dark red, and contains a stone which encloses a single pepper seed. Peppercorns and the ground pepper derived from them may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit), or white pepper (ripe fruit seeds).
Black pepper is produced from the still-green, unripe drupe of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the pepper, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The drupes dry in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper skin around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dry, the spice is called black peppercorn. On some estates, the berries are separated from the stem by hand and then sun-dried without boiling.
After the peppercorns are dried, pepper spirit and oil can be extracted from the berries by crushing them. Pepper spirit is used in many medicinal and beauty products. Pepper oil is also used as an ayurvedic massage oil and in certain beauty and herbal treatments.