In my latest travels to the Caribbean (like I go there all the time!) I was overjoyed when my husband located a spice vendor just before we left St. Maarten's. And there they were - those perfect little dried red berries screaming at me to "take me home"! How could I resist their beauty, and the exotic name I've never heard of; Baies Rose. Thrilled, I grabbed three small bags at about $5 each and she threw in a Jamaican Jerk blend which I will try and dissect later.
Baies Rose turns out to be known as "Pink Peppercorn" here in the US. The species name is Schinus molle L. or Peruvian peppertree. There seems to be much confusion over it's relative, the Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius). The two berries look almost identical so you really need to see the leaves, which are quite different...which of course were not included in my purchase. So the question is ...do I trust that I really have Baies Rose?
It's important to know the difference between the two species as the Brazilian peppertree (think "B"razilian = bad) can cause allergic reactions which can include respiratory issues. This of course does not sound like any fun ...so I'd rather avoid a mistake!
As I read for hours, what follows may only be interesting to me. So you can stop now and just say, "wow - what a great article!" and move on. Still with me? Okay!
So by now you may have noticed one thing - it's not a peppercorn at all! Baies Rose (la baie rose de Bourbon) is a berry grown on the island of Reunion once known as Ile Bourbon, near Madagascar. They also are in Mexico and Australia. They were introduced in the US and now appear in California, Florida, Hawaii, Texas and Puerto Rico. (Hmmm - not St. Maartens...).
The flavor sounds intriguing and is described as having a mild citrus zest with the flavor of sweet berries. (I really want to try these....).
The bad dude, the Brazilian peppertree, was introduced into Florida as an ornamental sometime in the 1920's. By the 1950's the alarm started sounding as it not only grew well there, but became invasive. A 1997 report from the Brazilian Pepper Task Force (I want a t-shirt that says that) notes that "Brazilian pepper thrives on disturbed soils created by natural disruptions such as hurricanes." Between birds spreading the seed and hurricanes, I think they've got their work cut out for them!
The USDA site has tons of information on both species: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCHIN and was a major help in untangling some bad information out on the web. If you note any errors here please let me know!
Now I think I will go shop for some pink peppercorns. Oh, maybe I'll just try one of these that I bought....I'll let you know if I survive!
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