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All Fired Up

Flavours from a rainbow of peppercorns

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All Fired Up

Different types of peppercorns are picked at varying stages of ripeness. Grind your own peppercorns to spice up your culinary creations.

What sits unglamorously on your kitchen counter yet stores a substance so valuable that it served as currency in ancient times? It’s your pepper shaker, and the aromatic powder in its belly can dramatically enhance your meals as well as help you digest them.

Set aside the shaker, though. For optimal freshness and taste, you’ll want to grind your own peppercorns–the dried berries of the pepper plant.

Pepper and Your Health

Pepper’s major constituent, piperine, boasts anti-inflammatory properties, promotes digestion, and reduces flatulence. It increases heat production in the body, promotes sweating, and stimulates the breakdown of fat cells. It also enhances the assimilation of nutrients. In fact, piperine has been shown to increase absorption and bioavailability of curcumin, the major phytochemical compound in turmeric, by 2,000 percent.

Piperine is most abundant in black pepper and a variety you may have not heard of before–long pepper.

The surprising range of colours and exotic flavours of peppercorns is sure to spice up your culinary creations. Remember that commercial spices may be contaminated with pesticide residues, so look for organic varieties, available in health food stores.

The Pepper Rainbow

Black, white, green, and red peppercorns all come from the Piper nigrum vine, but are picked at varying stages of ripeness. Long pepper is fruit of the Piper retrofractum, Piper officinarum, or Piper longum vines. Look for other types of pepper, as more than 100 varieties are available.

Pick a pepperHow it is producedHow it tickles your taste budsHow to use it
BlackProduced from the mature but still green berries of the pepper plant, which are sundried until they shrivel and turn brownish black in colour.The most pungent of all peppercorns, black pepper is penetrating, spicy, and hot. The richly flavoured Tellicherry variety is considered to be the world’s most delectable black pepper. Grind black pepper into soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles, or sprinkle it over pasta, vegetables, and meat. A little goes a long way, so use black pepper to taste–as with any good thing, more is not necessarily better!
WhiteProduced from fully mature pepper berries that are macerated in water, rubbed to remove their red outer hull, and dried in the sun. Slightly less aromatic than its black cousin, white pepper is nevertheless pungent and flavourful. White pepper is the preferred choice for dishes in which black specks would be considered unsightly, for instance, in white sauce, b?amel sauce, or light-coloured cream soups.
GreenProduced from unripe berries that are steamed after picking and then air-dried or packed in brine. The sharp, crisp flavour of green peppercorns combines an earthy aroma suggestive of fresh herbs with the pungent taste of pepper. Green peppercorns are popular in French cuisine as well as in other Western European gastronomies. They are particularly delicious added to salads, soups, marinades, sauces, and vegetable dishes.
Red

Produced from fully ripe berries that are typically preserved in brine to retain their bright red or sometimes pink colour.

Some so-called “pink peppercorns” aren’t really peppercorns, but the tiny rose hips from the Baies rose of Brazil. They have a delicate pepperlike flavour with a hint of citrus zest. 

The distinctive flavour of red and pink peppercorns is delicately sweet and spicy. Ground red and pink peppercorns add zest and a dash of colour to fruit desserts, sauces, and vinaigrettes.
Long pepperProduced from the dried, unripe spikes of the South or Southeast Asian vine. Long pepper’s aroma is similar to that of black pepper. It tastes slightly hotter, but also sweeter. Long pepper can be substituted for black pepper in most recipes. Ground long pepper adds punch to soups, salads, and fresh or cooked fruit.
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