Peppercorn are dried berries that grow in clusters on the vine-like pepper plant. The peppercorn begins as a green berry and then matures from yellowish tan to red and finally black in color.
As the peppercorn matures, three common types of peppercorns are harvested at different times, which are the green, the white and the black peppercorns. The green peppercorns are under-ripe berries, which are generally preserved in brine or pickled. Green peppercorns have a fresh, less intense flavor than the black or white peppercorns.
The white peppercorn is picked after it is allowed to ripen slightly longer, resulting in a larger berry with a loose outer shell. After the berry is soaked in water the shell is removed before it is dried, a smaller light tan-colored berry is produced that has a smoother skin and a milder flavor. It is basically the same as the black peppercorn without the outer skin. White pepper is generally used in soups, sauces, food spreads, grilled poultry and meats, or for foods that are light colored, such as fish, seafood and cream sauces where black pepper would detract too much from the appearance.
The black peppercorn, which is the most common of all peppercorns, contains the most pungent flavor of all types. It is picked when it is slightly under-ripe (green in color), then dried until the skin shrivels and turns dark brown or black. The black peppercorn is used to flavor meats, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, dressings, baked goods and a variety of other foods.
Since the flavor and aroma of peppercorns will not last long after being ground, it is best to keep peppercorns in a whole form and season foods by grinding the peppercorns with a peppermill.
Black and white peppercorns can be stored for up to a year if kept in a cool, dark place. Once the peppercorns are ground, they will keep their flavor for about four months. Once opened, brine packed green peppercorns should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about three weeks.
Oh, and by the way, pink peppercorns are actually not real peppercorn. The pink peppercorn is a very small berry, similar in appearance to a peppercorn and has a thin papery texture and a mildly sweet flavor.