Pink Peppercorns

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Pink peppercorns are fruits of the Brazilian pepper tree, Schinus terebinthifolius, which was brought to the southern United States as an ornamental and has become an invasive pest. Its attractive pink fruits were first marketed as a kind of pepper in the 1980s. The tree is in the cashew and mango family, which also includes poison ivy and poison oak, and its brittle, peppercorn-sized fruits contain cardanol, an irritating phenolic compound that limits its usefulness in foods. Pink peppercorns have fresh, pine, citrus, and sweet aroma notes thanks to several terpenes. A close relative from Peru, S. molle, is also grown as an ornamental and is called the California pepper tree. Its fruits have a more resinous aroma (thanks to myrcene), with less irritant cardanol.