Anyone who has walked into the spice aisle of the grocery store knows that pepper comes in more colors than simply black. It’s just that black pepper is the best known and most widely used.
But what of the other offerings? What do they bring to the table? Should they be part of your spice cabinet repertoire? Could I ask any more rhetorical questions?
Anyways, here’s a quick reference to use as you wish.
The first thing you need to remember is that pepper comes from ground peppercorns. This may be obvious to some, but it still needs to be said. That said, the second you thing you need to know is that white peppercorns, black peppercorns, green peppercorns, and red peppercorns are all the same type of seed from the Piper nigrum plant. The color of the peppercorn represents a different time of maturity of the seed.
Black Peppercorns: The least mature of the peppercorns, and the strongest in flavor. They get their black coloring when they are dried.
Green Peppercorns: Green peppercorns are essentially black peppercorns that were not allowed to dry. Thus they are also not mature and spciy n flavor. They are also typically pickled (usually found next to capers in the grocery store), but some are flash frozen.
Red Peppercorns: These are mature peppercorns, and then either dried or brined. These are rare to impossible to find in the United States. If you do see them, and they are relatively inexpensive, they are likely not of the Piper nigrum family.
White Peppercorns: Mature peppercorns that have been dried and had their outer skins removed. These taste a little spicier than black pepper but have less flavor. Here’s a bit of White Pepper trivia – White pepper outsells black pepper 10:1 in Northern Europe, roughly opposite of the ratio here in the United States.