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Black pepper are from the fruit of, well, the pepper plant! They are the cooked and dried unripe fruit of the plant.
With a sharp, mildly hot and pungent smell and have a nice bite to them, sprinkle on whatever dish you would like to add a little warmth.
This vibrantly red chili with fruity undertones is more popular as a color additive rather than a flavor enhancer. The strikingly red color it gives to food makes it perfect for bringing life to curries, tandoori chicken and many other Indian dishes for that authentic look and taste.
White pepper, green pepper and black pepper are actually the same fruit, sourced from a flowering vine. The only difference between them is how they are processed.
Black pepper is formed when the fruits are picked when nearly ripe and are then roasted or dried out in the sun until the hulls turn dark black. For white pepper, the hull is removed during a cleaning process before it’s dried out. Green peppercorns are those same berries, but are picked when young and immature.
Pink peppercorns are the berries of the Peruvian pepper tree that grows throughout South and North America and not actually peppercorns.
So what then is the fifth peppercorn in this mélange?
It sounds strange but the allspice berries provide a spicy, earthy flavor that mixes well with the other peppercorns. The overall blend is musky, spicy, astringent, hot, fresh, piney, and fruity with hints of berry. Pop it in your peppermill and never go back to straight black pepper ever again.
If there was any spice with a more complicated history or confusing categorization, it must be paprika. Paprika is made from the Capsicum annuum plant, which sounds simple enough. However, there are dozens of varieties of this pepper – both chile and bell. Yet, genetically, they’re all the same species. (Think of it in the way all people are human, but look very different from each other.)
Paprika is technically native to North and Central America and was used by the indigenous peoples as a food and as a coloring agent. Spanish explorers became enamored with the plant and brought it back to Spain along with tomatoes, potatoes, and other produce. The Spanish – particularly the lower classes, as the heat of paprika was considered undignified by the rich – began using the seeds in food preparation.
The seeds spread past Iberia to Turkey and throughout the Ottoman Empire, as well as throughout Europe to the Balkan countries and Russia. Later on it became endeared by India and the Middle East. And, of course, each country began breeding it to their tastes; the Spanish by smoking it, the Turks preferring hotter varieties, and the Hungarians loved it sweet and mild. Hungary and Spain, however, are the major producers of paprika, with the United States as a distant third.