When is a fruit not a fruit? When it’s from the Schinus species of the Anacardiaceae family.
Yeah, that’s a bit much for us to remember too! So, we simply refer to them as pink pepper berries.
These little beauties are either Peruvian Pepper (Schinus molle) or Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). The Brazilian strain was at one time imported to the United States, to be grown commercially in Florida. That project was abandoned and they are now considered an “invasive pest plant” and outlawed by the State of Florida as well as in parts of Texas.
It was even banned by the Food and Drug Administration for a time in 1982. The reason? Because of possible allergic reactions upon consumption. Crazy right? Might as well ban all tree nuts and bush nuts, wheat and other gluten products, rosemary, garlic and anything else in the normal dietary structure that might present sensitivity issues for some.
Thankfully the ban was lifted and they have been available for consumption in the U.S. for almost 30 years without incident. However, it should be noted, that eating too much Shinus terebinthifolius like eating too much of anything it can produce unwanted intestinal distress.
So what can you expect when cooking with them?
Flavor profile: The look like pepper and taste like pepper, but with none of the typical peppercorn heat or spiciness. They present as sweet and citrus-y.
Pairings: Perfect for pasta Primavera, vegetables, even vanilla ice cream. Anywhere you want the taste of pepper but none of the heat. Go for it, let your imagination run wild!
While the Peruvian grows on an evergreen tree and the Brazilian grows on a bush type tree, both are very similar in flavor profile. Our personal preference remains the Brazilians and the best quality berries are still cultivated in Brazil.
Try some for yourself and let your palate tell you!