MadSci Network: Other

Re: Are black and white pepper the same spice, only ground differently?

Date: Wed Sep 29 17:01:17 1999
Posted By: Doug Holt, Faculty, Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Missouri
Area of science: Other
ID: 938629160.Ot

Yes, you are correct. Black, green, white, and grey pepper are all fruits (yes, that's right, the fruit or berry) of Piper nigrum. The various colors are generated by harvesting the berries at various maturity levels. Green peppercorns are picked early and black peppercorns are picked about half ripe. White pepper is picked when the berries are very ripe - when the skin color is bright red. The red berries are soaked in water for a few days to dissolve the outer skin, leaving only the white, inner seed.

Black pepper is the most flavorful, white pepper is generally milder. Green peppercorns are often preserved in salt water or vinegar.

On the other hand, red peppercorns come from an entirely different plant (Schinus molle), a plant closely related to ragweed.

Reference: The Visual Food Encyclopedia 1996. Macmillan, New York. pg. 504.

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