Reach for a pepper mill or mortar and pestle, and start releasing the pungent aromatics locked inside the colorful dried berries of the pepper plant. You'll find most of these varieties at the grocery store or a gourmet shop. Store them tightly sealed and grind only as much as you'll use.
Green peppercorns are picked when the berries are young and still green. They have a fresh, herbal, delicate taste. Sprinkle them on any potato dish, or stir them into cream-based soups and sauces.
Green peppercorns in brine preserves the peppercorn's delicate flavor. Used mostly for cooking, not flavoring, the brined variety earned its culinary gold stars in a classic dish, steak au poivre.
Pink peppercorns aren't peppercorns at all; they are dried berries from a schrub native to Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Their sweet, candied taste adds elegance to tropical fruits, poached pears, and chocolate.
The Rainbow blend is sometimes considered purely decorative, but in truth it offers a nicely balanced range of flavor from sweet to spicy and has a heat level that sticks with you but doesn't burn.
Black Tellicherry peppercorns have the most heat. Hearty and rich in flavor, they are harvested when the pepper berry is just ripening. Use this stimulating pepper to flavor meats, mole, and red wine sauces.
White peppercorns are dried, fully ripened berries that have had their black hulls removed. Their clean, spicy flavor, reminiscent of roasted nuts, is a good choice for salads and creamy cheeses.