These peppercorns have a really unique flavour and would probably be used more often if it wasn't for the health issues that have surrounded them.
Pink pepper tree
Pink peppers ripening
Freshly picked pink peppers
Dried pink peppercorns
|Species:||Schinus terebinthifolius, s. molle.|
Pink pepper is native to Brazil (s. terebinthifolius) and to Peru (related plant species s. molle). S. terebinthifolius was introduced to Florida and today grows there wild. S. molle is planted as an ornamental in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea rather than as a culinary spice. The main producer for the European market is Réunion.
The bright pink peppercorn sized fruits are usually sold in dry state. Pink pepper berries pickled in brine have a dull, almost green hue and are less often traded.
Anacardiaceae (cashew family).
Sweet and aromatic, similar to juniper.
For the etymology of "pepper", see pepper, black, white, green and red. The genus name schinus is derived from the Ancient Greek name for another genus in the same family, pistacia "pistachio". Species terebinthinaceus means pertaining to turpentine and probably has its origins in the Latin pistacia terebinthus "turpentine tree" which is a member of the sumac family and a native of the Mediterranean region, the implication being that terebinthifolius means "having leaves like the turpentine tree".
Many names in modern languages refer to the geographical origins of the plant in Brazil and Peru or to the pink colour of the peppercorns. A few names refer to the growth of the plant in Florida (e.g. French poivrier d'Amérique, Slovenian Ameriški poper).
Pink pepper or Brazil pepper s. terebinthifolius has small fruits of peppercorn size and came to prominence in recent years in European nouvelle cuisine, in form of a decorative mixture together with white peppercorns, black peppercorns and green peppercorns. The larger fruits of relative s. molle appeared on the European market c.1950, but are no longer available.
Pink peppercorns are named so for their shape rather than for their flavour, which is not pungent, but rather mild and sweet. Pink peppercorns should not be confused with the ripe pepper fruits of black pepper, piper nigrum, that also have red hue, but show an intense peppery pungency.
The flavour of the small, pink berries is weak, so they serve a predominantly ornamental purpose, although they can develop a subtle flavour in food that has little other spice. Some books suggest them for fish and certain vegetables (e.g. asparagus) and this recommendation makes more sense than the mixing of different colour peppers to make a mixture in which the subtle flavour of the pink pepper is lost. A better way to achieve a pepper with interesting colour and an exotic and aromatic flavour is to mix allspice with pink pepper, or to use a classical spice mixture such as French quatre épices.
In the 1970s there was concern about potential health hazards in connection with pink peppercorns, as phenolic irritants were found in some schinus species. Although dried pink peppercorns are only associated with a weak irritating action, if any, some books recommend the use of pink pepper with caution, especially for people suffering from chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa.
Juniper berry can be used to makes a reasonable culinary substitute, although its flavour is far more intensive.