Peppercorns are available in four colours, black, white, green or pink.
The black, white and green peppercorns belong to the same species, Piper nigrum (Family Piperaceae) which is a woody vine native to southern India.
The pink peppercorns belong to the species Schinus molle, also known as Californian pepper tree or Peruvian peppertree. The Californian pepper tree is a native of south America but is naturalized worldwide in most countries.
Black peppercorns are the fruits (botanically known as a drupe) of the Piper nigrum vine. They are picked when mature but still green, then dried.
They become black and wrinkled after drying and are called Black Peppercorns.
Black peppercorns can be sold whole, cracked or ground.
Tellicherry peppercorn is one of the most priced black peppercorns.
Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice. Its spiciness is due to the chemical piperine.
White peppercorns are the dried seeds of the piper nigrum vine. The fruits are allowed to mature and fully ripen, red, before they are picked from the vine. They are then 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.
Green peppercorns are the fruits (botanically known as a drupe) of the Piper nigrum vine.
A drupe is fleshy fruit containing one seed, which is surrounded by a stony layer.
Green peppercorns are picked when underripe and then packed in vinegar or brine or freeze dried. They maintain their green colour.
The brine packed green peppercorns should be drained and rinsed before use.
Freeze dried peppercorns should be reconstituted in water before use.
Pink peppercorns are not a true peppercorn. They are the dried ripened fruits of the Schinus molle tree (Californian Pepper Tree). Schinus molle is in the same family as cashew nut and mango (Family Anacardiaceae).