Already I have named two that are not pepper, from the family Piperaceae. Neither Pink Peppercorns, nor chili peppers belong to the Piperaceae. Then there are two other less known types of pepper that do belong to the Piperaceae: Long Pepper (Piper longum) and Cubeb Pepper (Piper Cubeba). And there are various other pepper imposters, called "pepper" only because of some vague resemblance: Moula pepper from Hungary (Vitex agnus-castus), also called Chasteberry or Monk's Berry; Melagueta pepper (Aframomum melegueta), also called Grains of Paradise; Sichuan Pepper (from genus Zanthoxylum), also called Sichuan peppercorns or Chinese Coriander.
|White, Black, Green, Cubeb and Long Pepper, Pink Peppercorns, Moula & Melegueta|
Black, White and Green PeppercornsBlack, white and green peppercorns all come from the same plant, Piper nigrum. The only difference between them is that the berries are picked at different stages of ripening and treated differently to create the differing colors.
Black pepper is the most known and used. Black peppercorns come from the green berries, picked before they fully ripen and dried in the sun until they turn black. You will find it everywhere in pepper shakers. Personally, that pre-ground stuff doesn't even taste like pepper. If you have ever used a pepper grinder with fresh peppercorns, you will immediately know there is no comparison. Excuse my personal rant. But I love pepper, so it is a huge bone of contention. Pepper should be ground fresh. Black pepper is the strongest, particularly if you get larger varieties such as Tellicherry or Malabar. With these better quality peppercorns, there is also an amazing variety of flavors. I buy my Tellicherry peppercorns from Penzey's Spices and they have the loveliest floral and fruity flavors, amid the heat.
Other Piperaceae: Long Pepper and Cubeb Pepper
Using this long pepper, it is best added at the end of cooking to appreciate its flavors. Great in Indian curries, lentil stews and 'pickles'. Use it in vegetable dishes such as with asparagus, artichokes or mushrooms. Use it in fruit dishes like over mango or on mango salad. Long pepper is great added to spice rubs and pairs excellently with any pork, beef or lamb dish.
Another cheaper, commercially grown species is Piper retrofactum, from Indonesia. The two are interchangeable, but try the Piper retrofactum in Southeast Asian cooking. Each is used in the place where it grows and enhances that cuisine's dishes.
Cubeb Pepper (Piper cubeba) is mainly grown in Java and Sumatra. Growing
Other Non-Pepper Varieties
Sichuan Peppercorns do not have any of the spicy pungency of black pepper. Instead, it has slight citrusy overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth. Use these to lend flavors to many Chinese dishes. One that I particularly love is Szechuan Hot Sour Cabbage. Sichuan Peppercorns can also be added to sweet biscuits and cakes. Use it in Indonesian and Indian dishes as well.
|Melegueta Pepper - Grains of Paradise|
Moula "Pepper" (Vitex agnus-castus), also known as chasteberry and monk's pepper, is native to the Mediterranean. It is related to Lemon Verbena and Vervain, in the family Verbenaceae. In some places it is referred to Moula of Hungary. Chaste Tree Berries are used more as an herbal remedy these days and can affect hormone production. Be cautious if you are taking hormone medications such as birth control pills, estrogen or if you are pregnant.
These berries have been used as a pepper substitute, though its flavor is weak by comparison. They have a slightly pungent and bitter taste. There is a noticeable musty earth flavor, reminiscent of aged wine. Possible uses are in spice mixtures such as ras el hanout. Add to meat and vegetable dishes.
My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.