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Are black peppercorns viable for seed?

 
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I just purchased 6 piper nigrum seeds to establish some black pepper ground cover in my greenhouse.  Now I'm making my morning eggs and notice I have a thousand peppercorn seeds in my pepper grinder.  Could I have just used them or are they processed in some way that would hinder germination?
 
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The spice might be years old.  
 
Mike Haasl
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Good point Terri!... They just arrived in the mail and look identical to the peppercorns in my grinder.  So at least that tells me I could plant my own stuff if needed in the future.  May not grow but at least it looks correct.
 
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Hi Mike,

It depends on as mentioned the age of the peppercorns; however, of greater concern to viability is if they have been irradiated, or exposed to sterilizing heat during storage or transport. Of all the different types of peppercorns, black peppercorns are the mature seed, however, because they are grown in the tropics/subtropical regions; then shipped commercially in aluminum trucks, and or steel shipping containers often exposed to full tropical sun for weeks on end, the heat can sterilize them before they even reach market. Most seeds will be sterilized from temperatures at or around 120° F, and that's if they haven't been irradiated in processing, due to agricultural restrictions on imports of products that could carry pests/pathogens which may effect agriculture in other nations. Buying organic may help, but your best bet is buying seed intended for planting, as they will be better guarded against environmental conditions which may effect viability or germination rates.

Hope that helps.
 
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anyone up for a germination test of their spice cupboard?  

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0200/5036/files/Piper_Nigrum.pdf
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks R's  I've also heard that there are non fertile versions of black pepper.  I visited the Como Conservancy in Minneapolis this winter and they had black pepper as a ground cover in about half of the greenhouse.  They'd never gotten it to flower.  Since then I heard about the non fertile thing.  
 
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