What's The Deal With Green, Black, White, and Pink Peppercorns?

Peppercorns come in different colors and tastes. Which one is best for which recipes? I'll talk about that in this post. Learn more about peppercorns behind the jump ...

Pink peppercorns are not a true peppercorns (genus Piper), but are the ripe berries of the Brazilian pepper tree. Since they are the same shape and size as true peppercorns, they are marketed under the name "pink peppercorn." They are used as a spice and have a lighter pepper-like taste. The trees are ornamental and are found in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas. If you have a Brazilian pepper tree, you can collect your own pink peppercorns. Just spread them on a baking sheet and allow them to dry before putting in a spice canister. These pair well with seafood and in light sauces due to their pretty color and light taste.

Green peppercorns are true peppercorns of the Piper nigrium flowering vine plant, which originated in India and has been used since prehistoric times. Green peppercorns are really unripe black peppercorns. These are often preserved in brine or vinegar and served in pickled form. In dried form, they don't last very long and have to be used quickly. They're commonly found in Thai and other Southeast Asian recipes and have a fresher flavor than their black counterparts.

Black peppercorns are the most commonly used peppercorns, and are ground up and put in shakers next to the salt. These are green peppercorns that have been cooked in hot water and then spread out in the sun to dry. The ancient Egyptians used black peppercorns in their mummification processes, and it was well-known by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used it as a spice. In Southeast Asia, black peppercorns were traded as currency. It remains the most widely-traded spice in the world today.

White peppercorns are black peppercorns that have had the black skin removed, so technically, they are just the seed of the fruit. They are less pungent and more earthy in flavor than black peppercorns, and are commonly used in white sauces and mashed potatoes due to their color as they don't visibly stand out like black pepper.

Related:
Ingredient Spotlight: Long Peppers
Ingredient Spotlight: Sichuan Peppercorns
Best Black Peppercorns
Best Product: Perfex Pepper Mill
Urban Pepper Grinders from Jabou Design

(Image: Spice and Tea)