Learning the origin of white pepper

Hints from Heloise

Dear Heloise: I recently made a Vietnamese dish that called for white pepper. I had a hard time finding white pepper, though, and was shocked by the price. Why is it so expensive, and where does it come from? — Charlotte H., Denver

Charlotte, white peppercorns come from pepper plant berries and are generally picked at the peak of their ripeness. Afterward, the berries are soaked in water and are allowed to ferment. It’s commonly grown in Southeast Asia, and the berries contain an antioxidant, called piperine, that prevents the formation of free radicals.

White and black pepper contain different levels of pungency and heat. Black pepper is said to have a far more intense flavor, while white pepper is considered milder. White pepper is more expensive than the black variety because it’s much more labor-intensive to harvest and produce, but it has a long shelf life of about four to five years. — Heloise



Dear Heloise: As a pharmacist, I’m very much aware of the hazards of medications that are left in the medicine cabinet. Here are a few hints to keep in mind when you’re cleaning out old or used medications:

— If the label is peeled off the bottle or box, toss it in the wastebasket.

— Never flush medication down the toilet. When in doubt about what to do, call a local pharmacy and ask them what the state recommends.

— If the medication is more than 2 years old, please discard it.

— Never give your medications to anyone else. If they have a bad reaction to the medication, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

— Discard any liquid medication that has separated.

— Does your aspirin smell like vinegar? If so, discard it!

— Keep all medication in a cool, dark place with very low humidity.

— Always take medications as ordered by your doctor. When in doubt about how or when to take your meds, just call your doctor’s office and ask. — Donna S., Braidwood, Illinois



Dear Heloise: Plastic grocery bags have been found in some of the deepest parts of the ocean and even on mountaintops. It’s become a real problem for this planet! To help this rock we call Earth, let’s ask for paper bags and insist that stores give us paper instead of plastic.

In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, stores usually gave customers paper bags that could be reused to carry trash out or other items. Let’s get away from plastic bag use. — Carl W., Lincroft, New Jersey

Carl, perhaps we should also stop throwing plastic bags into the ocean, stop scattering our garbage in picnic areas and become more responsible about disposing of trash. You’re right; we all live on one planet, and we need to take better care of it. — Heloise


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