Peppercorns are berries that grow on Piper nigrum, a flowering vine in the family of Piperaceae, cultivated for its spicy berries.
You’ll find three different varieties of original peppercorns: green, black, and white. Fresh green peppercorns are unripe and uncooked fresh berries harvested from the pepper vines. Black peppercorns are sun-dried ripened red peppercorns. White peppercorns are the inner seed of the black peppercorns with the outer skin removed. All these three types of peppercorns have various applications in cooking; also the Piperine alkaloid extracted from peppercorns has several medicinal uses.
This article reveals all important facts on green peppercorns, including their health benefits, uses, preservation of peppercorns in brine, and substitutes.
What Are Green Peppercorns?
Green peppercorns are unripe peppercorn berries from the flowering vines of Piper nigrum native to the Malabar Coast of India. Each piper nigrum vine develops several flower stalks with tiny flowers that can grow up to 6 inches long, looking like pendulous spikes. The flowers transform into spherical peppercorn fruits as drupes, appearing in green bunches that eventually turn red when ripe.
The corn-shaped fruit is a drupe (stonefruit) which is about 6 mm (0.20 inch) in diameter, dark green and contains a stone that encloses a single pepper seed.
The mature fresh green peppercorns are picked before they turn ripe and used as a hot spice to flavor foods. Fresh raw peppercorns are quite perishable and are commonly preserved in brine or pickled. Also, fresh green peppers are dried to make green peppers. The green peppers are less spicy than the black peppers.
The fresh green corn is grassy and slightly tart in taste. They are softer than matured red corn, moderately spicy, and have a lively and strong aroma. Chewing the fresh corn in your dish stimulates a surge of flavor.
Origin and History
Piper nigrum is native to South India, especially in the tropical hill terrains of the Malabar Coast. Some records of history suggest the use of this pepper in Indian cooking as early as 2000 BC. Today, it’s commercially grown in several tropical regions of the world including Malabar, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Malacca, Java, Borneo, Japan, the West Indies, and the Philippines. They grow best in tropical areas where the average temperature ranges from 55-90 F.
Peppercorns, especially the dried ones, were valued more than gold in the Middle Ages. They are accepted in lieu of money for rent, taxes, and dowries. Rameses II, a King of ancient Egypt, had his nasal cavity stuffed with peppercorns as part of his mummification.
Uses in Cooking
Fresh green peppercorns are an important flavoring ingredient in several cuisines across the world, especially in French and Thai cuisines. They are soft and can be easily crushed even with your fingers.
The bright piquant flavor of this green spice adds a freshness and earthiness to meat dishes and creamy cheeses. Add crushed corns, fresh or brined, in sauces and dips for meat.
They can very well complement poultry, seafood, pates, grilled meats, cream, butter, white wine, sauces, soups, parsley, mustard, and Indian-style curries.
Green peppers can also be used in place of black or white peppercorns.
Ways to Store Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns are soft and delicate unlike black peppercorns and have a short shelf life in normal conditions. Here are some of the best ways to preserve them for long:
Remove the strings from the peppercorns and rinse them well. Remove the moisture from the corns by drying them with microfiber kitchen paper or a cloth towel. Place the peppercorns in a freezer bag to avoid freezer burns. Frozen corns will stay good for 6 months to 1 year.
Green Peppercorns in Brine
Preserving peppercorns in brine gives them a shelf-life of up to 3 years. However, brined peppercorns must be kept under refrigeration once the sealed container is opened. For preparing the brine:
- 6 green peppercorn drupes (about 100 grams)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 dry bay leaf (optional)
- 5 cloves of garlic (optional)
- Rinse the peppercorns after removing the strings and dry them with a microfiber cloth or paper.
- Boil ½ cup of water with a tablespoon of turmeric powder in it
- Remove the boiling water from the fire and add vinegar and salt
- Place the garlic and bay leaf in a sterilized jar
- Transfer the clean peppercorns into the jar
- Pour the hot brine over the green peppercorn in the jar
- Once the brine is cooled, tightly close the jar with an airtight lid
- Store the jar with brine in a cool place away from heat and light
- Use it in your food whenever you like
- Once the jar is opened, it must be stored in the refrigerator
Green Peppercorn Benefits
Peppercorns are rich in antioxidants, iron, and vitamin K. The piperine, a chemical compound that gives spicy heat to peppercorns, is said to have several health benefits.
Rich in natural sodium
The natural sodium contained in peppercorns helps to develop a healthy rate of fluid flow in blood vessels.
Rich in antioxidants
The vitamins A and C found in green peppercorns are powerful anti-oxidants that reduce the risks associated with free radicals in the body. Anti-oxidants reduce the chances of getting diseases associated with free radicals such as cancer, inflammatory joint disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and others. They also boost immunity to prevent the occurrence of several common diseases like influenza, cold, and viral fevers.
The piperine compound in green peppercorns also helps to improve digestive functions in the body. This compound promotes the secretion of enzymes required for healthy digestion.
Also, they are a good source of dietary fiber, an essential macro-nutrient beneficial for healthy digestion.
Prevents intestinal issues
The piperine compound in green peppers aids in the secretion of hydrochloric acid which is effective for reducing gastrointestinal diseases. Moreover, hydrochloric acid is effective in eliminating harmful bacteria in the food before it gets into the intestinal tract.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the side effects of green peppercorns?
There aren’t any critical side effects from peppercorns when they are consumed in moderation. Peppercorns are rich in sodium thus people with high sodium levels in the body should avoid peppercorns. High sodium levels in your body lead to rising blood pressure, heart diseases, and stroke.
Where to buy green peppercorns?
Fresh green peppercorns are available only in places where pepper vines are grown. You can buy green peppercorns in brine, pickled, or frozen peppercorns from online vendors. Also, you’ll get to buy dried green peppercorns which are labeled as green peppers.
What are the best substitutes for green peppercorns?
Black peppercorns are the closest substitute for green pepper, but they are spicier than the green corns. Instead of fresh green peppercorns, you can use peppercorns in brine or pickled peppers. Fresh green capers are another substitute worth considering. Other closely similar substitutes for peppercorns are Cubeb Pepper and Grains Of Paradise.
Are capers green peppercorns?
No. Capers and peppercorns are very different despite their similarities in appearance and flavor. Capers are very mild and also do not have the rich flavor of green peppers.
What are jarred green peppercorns?
Peppercorns in brine come in jars and they are fresh green peppers pickled in a solution of vinegar and salt. The jarred peppercorns have a mild flavor and a fresh, zesty pop. It is an excellent condiment for roasted meats, sauces, and creamy soups.
What is a good substitute for brined green peppercorns?
When you don’t have peppercorns in brine, freeze-dried green pepper is a good substitute that would work. Other substitutes are white peppercorns, black peppercorns, or pink peppercorns.
Can I use green Sichuan peppercorns in place of green peppers?
Green Sichuan peppercorns are very different from green peppercorns. They are harvested from a different type of prickly-ash tree. They typically have a strong citrus perfume and cause intense mouth numbness. They lack the spicy hotness of regular peppercorns.