Black pepper, white pepper and green pepper belong to the species Piper nigrum in the family Piperaceae. Black peppercorns are the whole dried fruit, white peppercorns are the naked seeds and green peppercorns are picked while the fruit is still green and pickled or preserved in vinegar.
To obtain the white naked seeds, the fruits are allowed to mature and fully ripen, red, before they are picked from the vine. They are soaked in water for a couple of days during which the fleshy part of the fruit softens and decomposes. The soggy flesh is cleaned off to leave the naked seed which is dried and sold as white peppercorns. The peppercorns can be sold whole, cracked or ground. Ground white pepper is obtained when you grind the naked seeds.
Pepper (Piper nigrum) is the world’s most traded spice, and the most used spice in western kitchens, after salt. Its spiciness is due to the chemical piperine and pungency due to volatile oils.
White pepper contains more piperine than black pepper but is less aromatic and has a weaker flavour.
Ground white pepper is usually used in white sauces or dishes when the black specks of black pepper will spoil the look of the dish. It’s also used in Chinese and Thai cuisine, and in salads.