Once so prized it was used as currency, pepper is the world’s most popular spice and kicks up flavor in all types of food. Pepper berries grow like grapes in clusters on the Piper nigrum vine. Always grind whole peppercorns for superior taste and pungency; they keep for about a year when stored in a cool, dry place. Heat things up with these exotic and common varieties.
Balinese long pepper. Reminiscent of miniature pinecones, these are prized for their complex, earthy personality with hints of nutmeg and cardamom. Grind into any recipe that uses black pepper—or snap in two and add to sauces or soups—for a unique floral note.
Green. The same species as black peppercorns but with a milder flavor and heat, these are well suited to fish and egg dishes, cream sauces, and spiced butter.
Javanese comet’s tail. Also called cubeb, these fat, Q-shaped peppercorns taste similar to black pepper but have a slightly sweeter aroma. Try grinding over grilled meats or cheese plate selections.
Pink. Not true peppercorns, but berries of the Baies rose, this lovely pepper adds a touch of color and sweet-spicy, slightly citrusy heat. Nice when ground over tender-lettuce salads, goat cheese, or even fruit salads.
Szechuan. Grown in the Chinese province on the prickly ash tree, these are not related to black peppercorns. Their distinctive pungent and woody flavor make them perfect for intensifying flavor in vegetable or poultry dishes.