What was this Sri Lankan Peppercorn?
February 27, 2013 9:04 PM   Subscribe

At a local Sri Lankan festival a few months ago I had what I thought was a fresh black peppercorn - it was a small black ball, smooth on the outside with a bit of salt coating it, and distinctly juicy. A guy was selling little glass jars of them. I think he recommended I put one in my Lion beer. I tried looking up fresh black peppercorns, but apparently they turn black as part of preparation and I can't find anything like this online. I did find peppercorns in salt in a bottle, but they were definitely green. Am I misremembering this, or is this standard food item of some kind?
posted by 23 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
could they have been basil seeds? they're used in drinks sometimes and look kinda like peppercorns.
posted by tealsocks at 9:27 PM on February 27, 2013

I was going to suggest Betel Nut, but those would be hard to confuse with a peppercorn.
posted by empath at 9:35 PM on February 27, 2013

Was it capers?
posted by carsonb at 9:46 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to this picture, immature peppers look like purple berries.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:51 PM on February 27, 2013

Response by poster: Didn't have that halo like the basil seeds do. Not capers. It looked exactly like I'd expect an inflated peppercorn to look - same size, taut skin, black all over.

Don't know if it will help, but when I bit into it popped - there was no meat, but just juice or water that tasted like fresh-ground pepper.
posted by 23 at 11:00 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: Apparently if the pickling process isn't done correctly, they may turn black.
- The pepper has to be pickled fresh, preferably the very day it is plucked from the vine. Don't postpone the pickling beyond the next day or the peppercorn start discolouring and turning black.

- When the stalks are pickled, ensure they are completely immersed in brine or they will turn blackish in colour.

posted by vegartanipla at 11:13 PM on February 27, 2013

Might be worth revisiting the same festival next year :)
posted by JamesBlakeAV at 11:49 PM on February 27, 2013

Could it have been allspice? They look like peppercorns but slightly bigger, and they taste a bit like nutmeg.
posted by glasseyes at 1:05 AM on February 28, 2013

Maybe papaya seed? They look a lot like peppercorns and apparently have a peppery taste. See here.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:07 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh! Drop intoto barnes and noblethe and check out the article on chinese food in the latest saveur mag (mar 2013). There is mention of a thing used into asia that tastes of peppercorn but isn't. I will fee so happy if this is it and i was able to help you.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 3:02 AM on February 28, 2013

I have the issue of Saveur that TestamentToGrace is referring to and the only thing I can find in it that seem similar are Sichuan peppercorns, which are not what you tasted.
posted by bcwinters at 5:40 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

They were probably pickled green peppercorns -- sometimes they do turn blackish -- very common in South India. They would look something like this but they can look quite black in certain lights. They're definitely salty and juicy -- I love them!
posted by peacheater at 6:21 AM on February 28, 2013

Best answer: Oh and this is what they look like after they've been brined a bit -- as you can see they're somewhat blackish.
posted by peacheater at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: peacheater, that would explain it then. Every one the guy had was black so he was probably just doing something different with his brining. I know a place that sells green ones so I'll check it out and see how they taste.

Thanks to everyone for your answers!
posted by 23 at 5:13 PM on February 28, 2013

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