Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pink Saturday - Pink Peppercorns

Beverly at the blog How Sweet the Sound has a great idea! It's Pink Saturday. Post about something pink, on Saturday. Here are the rules if you want to Get Pink!

A common tree here in southern California is the pepper tree, or Schinus molle. It's a native of Perú. It's not a very attractive tree as a specimen; its shape is ungainly and its bark is rough and messy-looking. Yet it has a delicate beauty all the same - finely cut composite leaves, and cascading clusters of small pink berries.

The Peruvian pepper tree has a Brazilian cousin, Schinus terebinthifolius, from Brazil. Both trees' fruit are harvested and sold as pink peppercorns.

Most pink peppercorns sold as spice are grown from Schinus terebinthifolius grown on the island of Reunion - once known as Ile Bourbon, and imported through France. The French call them baies roses de Bourbon.

They are no relation to black peppercorns, which are the berries of a flowering vine native to South India, Piper nigrum. These are also harvested when unripe to sell as green or white peppercorns. Pink peppercorns have a delicate spicy scent and taste as well as a physical resemblance to black pepper, so it's a natural association. You often find all four colors of peppercorns blended together as an attractive spice mix.

The bright piquant flavor of pink peppercorns and its pretty color make it nice to use in dishes where you want to add a touch of elegance. A sprinkling of coarsely ground pink peppercorns on fish with a light cream-based sauce can be quite beautiful. Salmon filet is nice with a pink peppercorn accent. Rich foods like duck breast and steak go well with its assertive spicy flavor. You can grind a little pink peppercorn in a mortar and pestle and add it to a simple lemon vinaigrette, for a pretty and tasty touch for a green salad. You can sprinkle it on top of steamed vegetables - it looks pretty with asparagus.

A couple weeks ago, [The Man I Love] and I treated ourselves to dinner at our favorite local restaurant and I indulged myself with Filetto di Bue al Prosciutto e Pepe Rosa In Salsa di Porto, or Beef Filet Mignon Sautéed with Pink Peppercorn, Port and Parma Prosciutto. It was heavenly!
But pink peppercorns aren't just for entrees anymore - more and more people are starting to use them in desserts!

The flavor works well with dark chocolate. I saw a recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes with ground pink peppercorns sprinkled on top. There is a Belgian chocolatier that offers a dark chocolate bar flavored with pink peppercorns - or Chocolat Noir au Poivre Rose.

What about pink peppercorn ice cream? Pink peppercorn biscotti? Pink peppercorn French macarons? Wow!

I think I want to try those macarons!

Dozens of Peruvian pepper trees grow in my neighborhood. I walked up on the road above my house to take this picture. When you stand among the foliage, you can smell the delicate yet spicy scent in the air.

Why not try something with pink peppercorns for dinner, on a special Pink Saturday?

UPDATE: For us Californians and those Floridians who have both Schinus terebinthifolius and Schinus mollis in our neighborhoods - I do not advise harvesting berries from our local trees. Buy spices from real spice dealers.


Miss Rhea said...

Gosh, I have grown up around those trees my whole life and never knew the peppercorns were usable !! I will have to try that. I think they are pretty tucked into shelves and in bowls too. :) Thanks for sharing that !! Happy Pink Saturday !!

Smilingsal said...

Yes, we have these in South Florida too, but they're considered invasive. I don't know why. Happy Pink Saturday! Come visit.

Beverly said...

Happy Pink Saturday, Glennis.

I have some pink peppercorns in my pantry. They are also good ground in homemade gingerbread.

Okay, now I'm hungry.

Schotzy said...

As a Virginian I never saw those, and they are beautiful as well as i know very tasty! Thanks for enlightening me! Very exciting post!


Happy Pink Saturday!

Lovely PINK peppercorns, awesome colour!

~ Gabriela ~

ellen b said...

Oh how wonderful to finally know the name of this tree and that those are pink peppercorns growing on it. I just took a photo of one of these trees this week with a closeup of the fruit and was wondering...You have enlightened me today. Thanks :0)

Suzie Button said...

I have never heard of pink peppercorns! That was fascinating and wonderful! Your dinner out did sound heavenly! Happy Pink Saturday! Suzie

She'sSewPretty said...

I love pepper trees. I think they are so pretty. I've never tried anything with pink peppercorns. Now you have me wanting to go find some. That steak dish sounds good!
Have a wonderful Pink Day!

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

I didn't know about pink peppercorns. Now I will have to look for them. Thanks so much for the info. I enjoyed reading about it.

Sweetie said...

Happy Pink Saturday! I learned something from your post. I had never heard of pink peppercorns.

Virginia said...

Thanks for sharing and the info.
Happy Pink Saturday!
Blessings, Virginia

jeanne said...

Those pink peppercorns are so unique. I learned alot about peppercorns today. I honestly did not know they existed. I love all the ways they can be used in food. Now I want some now. Thanks for a great post today.

Hugs, Jeanne

suesueb said...

thanks for such an interesting post. i never knew how these grew. have a happy pink week!!

Susan Hickam said...

We don't have those trees in North Eastern Kansas that I am aware of. Really pretty and so useful too. I loved your post today! The only problem is I am now hungry for something good! I am afraid what I had planned for dinner won't cut it now. Happy Pink Saturday from me and my furry staff.

KathyR said...

There are quite a lot of pepper trees over here in Calabasas & Woodland Hills. Never saw too many of them in our old stomping grounds. They must like it warm.

They're such a schizo tree. Beautiful and feathery with that gross gnarly trunk. And messy.

Lovely post, as usual!

Anonymous said...

very nice photos! I never saw or heard of those peppercorns.

Melissa Wertz said...

I have never heard of Pink Peppercorns! Thanks so much for sharing.

Have a Happy Pink Saturday!

fitty's pinky rose cottage said...

I never seen pink peppercorns.. what I normally see here in my country in the asian regions is the black peppercorns and white peppercorns.. now this is new to me too.. Happy Pink Saturday! and have a great weekend!

Lara said...

I enjoyed this post very much! a great pink post, and a great lesson too!

Patricia said...

How interesting ! I have never saw pink peppercorns and I would love to try the chocolate candy. Wonderful post. Hope you have a lovely week.

My Artful Heart said...

How neat, pink peppercorns. I actually saw them being talked about on Alton Brown's show on Food Network the other day. A very neat postie :)

Happy 'belated' Pink Saturday to you.

Queenly Things said...

Where I live many of the streets are lined with these trees. There is even a Pepper Avenue. Although these are messy, littering the ground below them with tiny little leaves, I love the smell when the peppercorns are broken and I love the color of the berries.

Mya said...

I love the pink peppercorn tree. I wish we had them in Michigan. Happy Pink

Maryjane - The Beehive Cottage said...

Hello G!

What great pictures of PINK peppercorns for Pink Saturday! Love peppercorns! Have a wonderful week!


DaveyWaveyGoodAsGravy said...

Mmmmmm! Chocolate and pepper.

Ok, this could get confusing...

It's easy for botanical names to get miss-matched with common names, and in the case of what we call "pink peppercorn" it is important to know which is which.

Not all pink pepper is the same! The rather expensive pink peppercorns one purchases in stores comes from the Baies rose plant (Schinus molle) via France grown on Reunion Island (off the coast of Madagascar).

This is a different plant than the Brazilian Pepper tree that is commonly found as an invasive exotic in Florida, Hawaii, and as a popular ornamental in southern California!

Neither are actually a pepper, but their berries have a form similar to black peppercorns. Originally, they both come from South America, but...

It is not recommended that one use the berries from the Brazilian Pepper tree, Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi, in large amounts in food. The plant is in the Sumac family (like poison ivy and poison oak), and the sap & blossoms, (and wood when burned) can be terribly irritating to some people. Consumption of the foliage by horses and cattle can cause hemorrhages, intestinal compaction, and fatal colic!

The species Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi is now legally prohibited from sale, transport, or planting in the United States because of its incredibly invasive nature, and has done untold damage here in Florida to ecosystems especially along mangrove coastlines. The sap burn the skin, so even removing a few shrub-sized trees can turn into a ordeal!

I have found several online stores that seem to sell the Brazilian Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi as Baies rose pink peppercorn, perhaps confusing the scientific names with the popular names for these plants. Look for the botanical name Schinus molle! Basically, I guess if its price is super low it's probably not the one you really want.

Look for the name "Schinus molle" on the pink pepper that you buy, and always be sure that anything that you harvest is identified as okey-dokey!

g said...

Hi, Davey - the trees grown in Southern California with the foliage I posted a photo of are Schinus molle.

Spectre said...

DaveyWaveyGoodAsGravy is absolutely right! The Schinus terebinthifolius that grows in Florida can be nasty - giving many people a poison ivy like reaction even with skin contact. Not something you'd want to eat!

And he is also correct that many people, even so-called experts seem to confuse the two or use the common names interchangeably. Schinus molle is a wonderful plant - but steer clear of the schinus terebinthifolius!

Robert Danhi said...

When are they growing in Southern California??? What months? Thanks!!!

debbthebee said...

I have always used pink peppercorn clusters to decorate wreaths as they are plentiful where I live in Central California. Schinus molle has been declared an invasive nuisance plant by the state of California but I still see people planting them. They are pretty trees with their lacey foliage and pink fruit but I stick to native plants and trees when I landscape and it is amazing the variety of birds and animals this type of gardening encourages.
I am excited to try the peppercorns in a culinary fashion-I think I'll start out slowly maybe adding it to some homemade chai or over some salmon like the author had on her night out. If it works I am going to bottle it up for Christmas gifts along with my honey and beeswax candles.