Streams

Amy Eddings' Food for Thought: Pepper

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pink peppercorns Pink peppercorns (flickr user LexnGer/flickr)

Boy, is my face red.

Or, rather, pink.

In my zeal to try different types of pepper, I bought two big bottles of whole pink and white peppercorns -- the pricey Morton & Bassett kind. I wanted to try red peppercorns, but I figured pink was the same thing. It's not.

I fried up two eggs, and put freshly ground white pepper on one and freshly ground pink pepper on the other. I couldn't really grind the pink peppercorns. Their bright magenta husks are too papery and just fall out of the mill in flakes.  Better to crush them, or use them whole.

I got that familiar, peppery zing from the white pepper.  It was pleasing, not as sharp and hot as black pepper.  But I was really disappointed with the pink peppercorns. I found the flavor so subtle as to be non-existent. I stuck a whole pink peppercorn in my mouth.  It tasted sweet but piney, a little like turpentine. No peppery heat at all.

What gives?

I started doing Web searches on red peppercorns and found, from SpiceLines.com, that red peppercorns are not red, really. They are a beautiful yellowish-cream color, with just a hint of blush on their cheeks.

Check out a picture on SpiceLines here.

Red peppercorns are the fully ripe fruit of the piper nigrum vine.  That's the same plant that green, black and white peppercorns come from. Different harvesting and processing methods give us the different colors and flavors of green (unripe), black (almost ripe, dried in the sun) and white (mature, with red husks removed). 

SpiceLines describes their flavor as "sweet and fruity, with a sunny warmth that builds to a spicy crescendo." 

That's what I was looking for, but I had purchased pink peppercorns. Not red. Red peppercorns are extremely rare. So rare that every time I did a Web search on red peppercorns, to find a mail order vendor, I was sent to sites selling pink peppercorns. I can't find red ones, at least, not online.

But pink ones proliferate on the Web and in our gourmet food stores. Pink peppercorns are priced as if they are rare, and maybe they are, but they sure are easier to find than red peppercorns. And pink peppercorns aren't even related to red peppercorns. They are what SpiceLines.com calls "rosy-hued imposters." 

They are from a small tree, Schinus terebinthifolius, also known as the Brazilian peppertree. In Florida, the non-native plant is called Florida holly. It grows like a weed, and is considered a pest. It has an aromatic sap that can cause skin reactions similar to poison ivy.  A related species, Schinus molle, the Peruvian peppertree, also has red berries that are sold as pink peppercorns.

So, I'm a little red. With embarrassment. And, frankly, with anger. Why are these menthol-tasting berries even allowed to be sold as "peppercorns"? Why did I pay $10 for just over half an ounce of berries from a plant that is taking over wetlands in Florida? A spokeswoman for Morton & Bassett told me their pink peppercorns are imported from Brazil. Why bother? Go to the Everglades and cut costs.

I didn't get the chance to ask Chef Julian Medina, my guest, about his pink peppercorn experience. He thinks they taste like strawberries.  I can't find that in my pink peppercorn vocabulary.  I wonder if he's using the red ones in his restaurants?  

And where can I get true red peppercorns?  

If you've got any suggestions, let me know.

Tags:

More in:

Comments [1]

Newbury Web Design from USA

Their bright magenta husks are too papery and just fall out of the mill in flakes. But I was really disappointed with the pink peppercorns. I stuck a whole pink peppercorn in my mouth. It has an aromatic sap that can cause skin reactions similar to poison ivy. He thinks they taste like strawberries. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. The Culture site is produced with support from the John S. Knight Foundation and the Surdna Foundation. Contact Terms of Use Privacy Policy .Good information thanks for sharing.Great post nice one for posting.Good post thanks for posting. FYI, really like your blog design, its easy to navigate and has great information, we had our web design done by <a href="http://www.webdesignnewbury.info">web design Newbury</a>
Digiphil
Supercool Freelancer

May. 24 2011 05:31 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Sponsored

About Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

Feeds

Supported by