Here's a new spice: pink peppercorns

Anyone who cooks is familiar with both black and white pepper. Two newer peppers are green peppercorns. Now there's another, pink peppercorns. the nouvelle cuisine apparently brought it to the attention of many chefs and it has begun appearing on menus as pink peppercorns.

It is not actually a peppercorn, however, for peppercorns refer to berries of the Piper nigrum vine.

In France, chefs have for some time been using what they call red berries, which is not actually a peppercorn, but a red berry from the rowan tree or mountain ash.

Apparently most of the supply coming here from France originates on the islands of Reunion, off the coast of Madagascar. It is a freeze-dried product.

One taster of the Americans Spice Trade association called it "candy pepper" because of its sweet overtones. More seriously, it has some of the menthol flavor of Sichuan pepper and only the mildest hint of black pepper heat.

On the West Coast, one restaurant reports that he is buying red berries locally from the ornamental pepper bush, Clephera alnifolia. He uses it on his menus as "pink peppercorns."

As for the real pink peppercorns, we learned recently that they are currently popular in Singapore and it is the true pepper berry in its pink stage.

Used in the fresh form in Singapore, the berries are served on small silver dishes. If the berries were freeze-dried and shipped to the United STates, we would then have four different spices from the same vine.

The piper nigrum, or black pepper fruit, begins as a green berry. This is called green peppercorns after being picked in the underripe stage and preserved in brine or vinegar and dried.

When the berries mature further, they are picked and dried for the black pepper.

Let on the vine still longer they turn pink or dark red and become white pepper when the outer skin is removed and they are dried.

Green peppercorns are milder when it comes to hotness, but they still have plenty of characteristic pepperiness.

Black pepper has both bite and a great deal of aromatic bouquet.

White pepper has flavor without as much aroma.

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