Mrech Kampot ”Poivre de Kampot” ម្រេចកំពត (Kampot peppercorn)

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Mrech Kampot ”Poivre de Kampot” ម្រេចកំពត

PGI Mrech Kampot ”Poivre de Kampot” ម្រេចកំពត refers to the berries of two varieties of the species Piper nigrum L.; specifically, the Kamchay and the Lampong (or Belantoeung), locally known respectively as ‘small leaves’ and ‘big leaves’ varieties, grown in the area defined below.

There are four different types of ‘Poivre de Kampot’ depending on the time of harvesting and the processing they receive afterwards:

— Green pepper: is the unripe fruit of the pepper plant, harvested when still young in the plant. It can be marketed and consumed either fresh (presented in clusters) or in brine or vinegar (presented either in full berries or clusters).

— Black pepper: harvested when the berries start to turn from green to yellow, they are afterwards dried. It can be presented in full berries or ground.

— Red pepper: is the dried product of fully ripe berries. It is presented in full berries.

— White pepper: produced from red or ripe berries and by a subsequent process of soaking. It is presented in full berries.

The characteristic of the product lies in its strong (but not ‘burning’) pungency, not aggressive but developing progressively in mouth. Beside the spicy character, its aromatic intensity gives ‘Poivre de Kampot’ its particular quality.

— The green pepper variety has a fresh citrus flavor and is less spicy than the dried varieties.

— Black pepper has a deeper, stronger and vaguely floral flavour with hints of flower, eucalyptus and mint. It can range from mildly sweet to intensely spicy.

— Red pepper is sweeter and less spicy than the black variety, but its flavor is more rounded. It delivers a powerful fruity aroma.

— In white pepper the outer skin of the fruit is removed after the process of soaking, this gives the product a different taste which carries notes of fresh grass and lime.

Concise definition of the geographical area

The geographical area consists of the following districts located in southern Cambodia:

Kampong Trach, Dan Tong, Toeuk Chhou, Chhouk and Kampot City, all of them in the province of Kampot. Kep City and Damnak Chang Aeur, in the province of Kep.

Link with the geographical area

Pepper production in Cambodia is mentioned in documents as old as the reports of the Chinese explorer Tchéou Ta Kouan in the 13th century. However, it was at the end of the 19th century that the province of Kampot witnessed a real ‘pepper fever’ with the arrival of the French colonists. At the beginning of the next century the production of this spice in Kampot intensified reaching up to 8 000 tons per year. In the middle of the 20th century the production of Kampot pepper, which stabilized at around 3 000 tons per year, was of exceptional quality. By that time, the name of Kampot had become strongly associated to pepper, and the product was well-known especially in France and the rest of Europe. Kampot pepper was highly appreciated for its quality, particularly among the chef's community in France and Europe.

The history and notoriety of Kampot pepper is well documented and illustrated in the book Kampot, miroir du Cambodge. Promenade historique, touristique et littéraire (Editions YOU-FENG, Paris, 2003) by Luc Mogenet, who talks about pepper cultivation that brought Kampot prosperity toward the end of the 19th century; in the 1920's, almost all of the pepper consumed in France came from that region of Indochina, according to this author.

References to the history of Kampot pepper between the 19th and 20th centuries can be found in many publications of that time. After a dramatic stop in the production of Kampot pepper due to the Khmer Rouge regime and the civil war that took place in the country, at the end of the 20th century, with the relative calm restored in the country after the elections of 1998, the production of this spice in the area resumed and the product quickly recovered its former glory. Producers' families of Kampot and Kep came back to their ancestral land. Coming from several generations of pepper producers, they naturally cleared the land left abandoned and started cultivating pepper again using the traditional methods inherited from their ancestors. The restart of the production of Kampot pepper in this new era has attracted the attention of the media, both nationally and internationally. Several documentaries praising the quality of the product, and telling about its specificity, have been produced and broadcasted worldwide; e.g.: the BBC's TV show ‘Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey’ (programme 1). Furthermore, Kampot pepper is nowadays mentioned, and described as a pepper of the finest quality, in many tourism and culinary-related guides, e.g.: Gordon's Great Escape Southeast Asia: 100 of my favourite Southeast Asian recipes (by Gordon Ramsay. 2011), The Rough Guide to Cambodia (by Beverley Palmer, 2013), etc. All this proves that the ‘Poivre de Kampot’ enjoys a reputation that it is attributable to its geographical origin.

On the other hand, the specificity of the product, that lies in its strong (but not ‘burning’) pungency and its aromatic intensity, is related to the specific conditions of the area and the local production methods. Good drained soil and high average rainfalls are conditions needed for the production of a high quality pepper. The provinces of Kampot and Kep have a climate with heavy and regular rainfalls; the wet season lasting longer than the dry season. Therefore, not only the average rainfall is high in the defined area (higher than 2 000 mm annually) but also well distributed along the year, what has a direct influence on the quality of the product, specifically on its aroma and its balanced pungency. On the other hand, the topography of the area allows most of the plantation plots to be located on the hills (elevated land) or the mountain foots and, thus, increasing the drainage capacity of the soil. As regards the human factors, two specific techniques of the pepper growing process used by the farmers of the defined area can be identified:

— The raising of soils to elevate the pepper plantation and digging an irrigation canal around the plantation to ensure good drainage.

— The regular inputs of new soil.

These techniques aimed at ensuring good drainage of the soil also contribute to the production of a pepper with intense aroma and balanced pungency. On the other hand, the regular inputs of new soil as well as other measures taken in the plantation (i.e. wide space between the poles, ensuring shade for young plants) contribute to the production of pepper with good density and size.

Reference: 12751 The European Commission