Did you know that peppercorns are actually the unripe fruit of a flowering vine? These tiny berries start out green and slowly change to deep red as they ripen. They don't turn black until after they get picked, cooked, and dried.
Pepper is spicy and enough of it will certainly make your ears warm, but it won't have you gulping down water the way chili peppers do. A few grinds is a nice way to add a bit of heat to a dish without blowing people away. Plus, its woodsy, citrusy flavor makes a nice counter-note to a lot of flavors in our cooking.
A few more trivia facts for you: green pepper is harvested a little earlier than black pepper and gets dried without being cooked to retain its brighter color. White pepper is ground from the seed of a fully ripe peppercorn; it's nice to use this spice when seasoning light-colored foods where you don't want black flakes to show up, though its flavor is a bit murkier. Pink peppercorns come from a different plant entirely, which accounts for their color and brighter flavor.
If you're in a pepper mood, take a look at these recipes:
• Roasted Edamame with Sea Salt and Black Pepper • Ginger and Black Pepper Roasted Turkey Breast • Slow-Cooker Peppered Beef Shank in Red Wine • How to Salt-Cure Lox at Home
What's your favorite peppery dish?