In Vietnam, Roots of Peace works with rural farmers and helps them set up commercial black pepper orchards. Our program provides discounted start-up packages for farmers to establish black pepper farmers, and trainings on planting, disease prevention, harvesting, and post-harvest handling. We also connect farmers to merchants and traders so their crops can be exported to high-end international markets. Farmers in our program have seen an average increase in their income of 300% which has led to more educational opportunities for their children, fewer doctors visits, and money saved that can be reinvested back into their orchards.

With so much impact packed into a seemingly simple spice, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the different varieties of pepper, For example, did you know that all pepper types are derived from the same vine? Different colors of pepper result from picking the berries at various stages of ripening and processing them differently. Common varieties include the following:

Black Pepper

Black peppercorns are picked at the midway point of ripeness; when left to dry, they shrivel and take on their signature black color. Black Pepper is moderately hot, pungent and aromatic. It remains the most widely-traded spice in the world today.
Try: Black Pepper Tofu

Green Pepper:

Green peppercorns are harvested at the earliest stage of ripeness. They are often preserved in brine or vinegar and served in pickled form. Green peppercorns are aromatic with a fresh flavor, but are not pungent. Because of the extra processing required and the smaller yield, these are much more expensive than black pepper.
Try: Seared Salmon with Green Peppercorn Sauce

White Pepper:

White peppercorns are picked when the berries are ripest. At this point, the berries are actually red in color, but after days of being soaked in salt water, they shed their red outer shells and reveal their white inner seeds. The aroma is earthy and taste is hot and creamy but not pungent or aromatic.  It is quite distinctive in aroma and flavor from that of the black pepper and almost never used as final seasoning.
Try: Lime and White Pepper Scallops

Red Pepper:

Red peppercorns are rare and can be extremely difficult to find here in they United States. They are fully ripened berries that are bright red in color when they are picked.  Instead of picking the berries, they are harvested with part of the vine. These are best used within a very short period of time. The red peppercorn has a sweet and mellow flavor in contrast to the pungent strong flavor of the black. Red peppercorns tend to be the most expensive variety so recipes will often call for them mixed with black pepper.
Try: Mixed-Peppercorn Steaks with Sherry-Marjoram Pan Sauce