Peruvian Pepper: An Exotic Spice to Forage This Season

Ingredient Spotlight

Though pink peppercorns are considered an exotic spice, the evergreen trees from which they originate are anything but. Peruvian pepper is an invasive species that—for lucky foragers in California, Florida, Hawaii and other hot climates—are easy to find to make your own gourmet spice.Despite its name, Peruvian pepper is not related to black pepper, nor is it a true pepper at all. But when harvested and dried, its berries become the familiar pink peppercorns found in commercial peppercorn blends.

In fall and winter, the fruit of the Peruvian pepper tree ripens in abundance with reddish-pink berries hanging from its weeping branches. The fresh berries are nothing more than seeds encased by hard shells.

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If you live in the Southwest (Arizona and California), Central California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico, you can find Peruvian pepper trees growing wild — sometimes even in your own neighborhood! Stroll the streets around Disneyland in Anaheim and you'll start to notice these "weedy" trees everywhere.

Simply pick a couple of well-fruited branches, harvest the berries, and lay them out to dry at room temperature. In a few days, your forage find will turn into a handful of fragrant pink peppercorns!

Related:

Foraging: Pink Pepper
Ingredient Spotlight: Pink Pepper

(Images: Linda Ly/Garden Betty)

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