WHAT IS IT?
Instead of coming from a vine that black, white, pink peppercorns (French: baie rose, “pink berry”) they are the berries of two tree species of the Schinus family, Schinus molle (Peru) and Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazil) that are actually members of the cashew family.
In fact, it is not a peppercorn at all. It is a spicy dried berry.
The trees grow quite large, and many people have them as decoratives in their yards, as the pink berries are attractive-looking.
Very hearty, schinus molle trees can grow 30 ft. in height and become very wide without regular trimming.
Most folks who have them don’t even know that the pink peppercorn is edible! Please see the warning below for those with allergies before using this spice!
The flavor of pink peppercorns are thought of as sweet, generally milder, perhaps a bit more piercing at the finish than black, white, or green. They are more fruity than most pepper berries, although they pack a little pungent and spicy at the end.The slight peppery flavor is due to piperine oil, which is also found in other peppercorns, but it can’t bring on the heat of other peppers because it doesn’t have near as much. Lingering notes on the palate of citrus and juniper berry. A vague sort of berry/pine aroma are the scents of these complex berries.
They pair well with chocolate and fruity things, and substitute for black pepper in a few applications, like salads, but sparingly. Not as good in hot or complex spicy dishes as black or green or white pepper because it’s not terribly strong.
SpiceJungle does a particularly good job rough-cracking the pepper and retaining its character, but it tends to lose a lot of its pop stored this way over time. The texture is best when you control it, hand-cracked or mortared, so I would recommend the whole with its colorful shells to get the full effect.
They prefer hot and wet climates, they grow throughout South America, and have been transplanted throughout suburban North America, they originate in the Andes mountains of Peru. A subspecies exists in Brazil that probably resulted from human trade of the seeds. They grow wild in the Southwestern United States, including California, Texas, and Arizona and several Pacific islands where they were imported. Schinus trees are also found in parts of Florida, although the Brazilian variety is banned there as an invasive species, especially in areas where Mangroves are threatened by them. Several Pacific island nations ban them as well.
- Pink peppercorn sauce for meats, poultry and fish were a staple of 1950’s American restaurant cuisine (Pink Peppercorn Sauce) and remain popular as an import in France;
- An expat American and Latin American Asian cuisines. A fave in cabbage dishes outside of Asia as a sub for white pepper;
- Added to curry pastes;
- The pop in Chicha, a traditional Peruvian native corn-based beer;
- Used in desserts and as a seasoning for fresh fruits;
- A great edible garnish for cheese boards! Put a seed or two in a bite of a semisoft cheese and enjoy!
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Add cracked toasted pink peppercorns to homemade cheese for flavor and visual pop;
- Crush a few and add to popcorn;
- Mix with cardamom in a cardamom bread;
- Make a Mexican dark chocolate sauce over cinnamon ice cream and sprinkle cracked pink peppers for both color and a bit of nice spice!
TREE NUT ALLERGY ADVISORY – Pink peppercorns may cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, for persons with allergies to cashews or general sensitivities to tree nuts. If you are cooking for people whose health histories you know well, and no one has a problem with tree nuts, it is not an issue. DO NOT use these for dishes for your guests if you do not know whether they have tree nut allergies.
Pink peppercorns are very light and often times elude grinders, although they’re soft enough to be ground by hand in a mortar and pestle, or cracked with the broad side of a knife and the palm of your hand hitting the flat side firmly. USE SPARINGLY.
Pink peppercorns were used in Peru to make “chicha” a form of beer by the Amazon forest-based Wari tribe. Drinking it was a mark of tribe identity. Pink peppercorns have only become available outside of Peru and Brazil in the last century. Export began in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. At one point importation was banned in 1982 because the FDA tracked reports of swollen eyelids and indigestion and attributed the symptoms to poison ivy-like illnesses, as the cashew and mango are also related to poison ivy. The ban was lifted in the US, and they were returned to the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) foods list.
- Peruvian Pepper
Available in whole form (preferred)
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