Pink Peppercorns: At a Glance
Pink peppercorns aren’t peppers at all but dried berries! Visually attractive and offering both peppery and citrus flavors, pink peppercorns are commonly used in seafood and French-inspired recipes, but also in many other creative ways.
Note that the plants that produce pink peppercorns are members of the “cashew family” which includes nuts and mangos. There is little evidence to suggest that pink peppercorns will present an allergic trigger, but if you are allergic to nuts or mangoes, then you may want to avoid pink peppercorns until you’ve talked with your physician.
Cooking with Pink Peppercorns
Although pink peppercorns share an appearance with true peppercorns, they aren’t solid inside. They are also less resistant to high heat and long cooking times compared to true peppercorns. To experience the full flavor of pink peppercorns, always add them later to the dish you are preparing. Pink peppercorns can enhance recipes in various ways that are limited only by your imagination.
- Whole or cracked in their dry form. Pink peppercorns may be added to foods directly as a garnish or topping. Cracked pink peppercorns may be sprinkled atop a savory or sweet cheese and cracker with chives for a simple and different hors d’oeuvre that will pair with your guests’ favorite wine. Pink peppercorns can also be used to create a surprising buttercream icing that perfectly blends the sweet and savory profile of the berries with practically any cake recipe.
- Ground either alone or with other spices. Adding pink peppercorns adjusts the complexity of the overall mixture, and pink peppercorns are often ground with black, white or other true peppercorns.
- Paired with chocolate. Peppers have been successfully paired with chocolate since the ancient Mayan culture that mixed Chile pepper with crushed cocoa beans to create a spicy and hot chocolate beverage. Pink peppercorns can be ground onto off-the-shelf hot cocoa for a modern twist on the Mayan beverage. Easy chocolate truffles can be rolled in ground pink peppercorns for a unique and elegant after dinner treat.
- As a syrup for cocktails or to drizzle over ice cream and cakes. The syrup is simple to make with equal parts sugar and water and whole pink peppercorns. Gently simmer the water and sugar just until the sugar melts and then steep pink peppercorns to extract their essence for about 20 minutes. Strain out the peppercorns, cool, and the syrup is ready to use.
Pink Peppercorns: History and Origination
Pink peppercorns are harvested from the berries of two different plants: the Brazilian Pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) and the Peruvian Pepper tree (Schinus molle). These plants have been used as old-fashioned remedies for problems from ulcers to respiratory problems and arthritis.
Modern analysis of pink peppercorns shows that they contain anthocyanins which provide color and may also offer anti-inflammatory benefits, and bioflavonoids as are found in citrus fruits and believed to be effective antioxidants that may protect against free radicals.
Pink peppercorn plants are considered an important nectar and pollen source in honey production. The berries of the plant are also used in various beauty products including perfume where they provide a “rosy” fragrance without a “powdery” odor.
Cultivation of Pink Peppercorns
Native to Brazil and Peru, pink peppercorn plants thrive in hot and wet climates and are also found in California, Texas, and the Pacific islands. The Brazilian pepper plant, introduced to the United States as an ornamental in the 1920s, is so prolific in Florida that the State has identified it as a significant threat to Florida’s natural areas!
Peppercorn plants can be sprawling shrubs or small trees with both upright branches and vines and can flourish for thirty years or more. The flowers of these plants are small and white with five petals. The berries are initially green, grow in clusters of hundreds, and turn reddish as they fully ripen.
The berries of the pink peppercorn plants can grow year-round, ripening in the fall and winter, and again in the spring. Because of their fragile nature, pink peppercorn berries are commercially sold in a dry-roasted form. Drying of foods is a traditional preservation method that reduces the water content and thereby inhibits biological growth and degradation of the product.
Care must be taken during the drying process to avoid a darkening of the outer pink shell of the berry and to maintain the attractive color and form of the berries.
About Our Pink Peppercorns
Our pink peppercorns are grown in Peru, a land of historic agricultural tradition and home to over one-hundred domesticated plants, including over three-thousand varieties of potatoes, coffee, herbs, and spices. During the planting and harvesting periods, communities often pull together, rising early to work through the available daylight hours.
Farming is challenging in Peru due to limited land for commercial cultivation, which makes our pink peppercorns that much more special.