California peppertree

More or less out of my back door, there’s a California peppertree that I noticed yesterday because the heavy rains had knocked so many of the peppercorns down on to the sidewalk. A photo:

A pretty (and evergreen) tree, with aromatic berries; I delight visitors to California by picking some berries and crushing them between my fingers to release the scent.

The tree is Schinus molle. Schinus is a genus of flowering trees and tall shrubs in the sumac family, Anacardiaceae. From Wikipedia:

Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle, also known as American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, escobilla, false pepper, molle del Peru, pepper tree, peppercorn tree, Californian pepper tree, pirul and Peruvian mastic) is an evergreen tree that grows to 15 meters (50 feet). It is native to the Peruvian Andes. The bright pink fruits of Schinus molle are often sold as “pink peppercorns” although S. molle is unrelated to true pepper (Piper nigrum).

S. molle is native to the arid zone of Northern South America and Peru’s Andean deserts, and goes to Central Argentina and Central Chile. It has, however, become widely naturalized around the world where it has been planted as an ornamental and for spice production. S. molle is a drought tolerant, long-lived, hardy evergreen species that has become a serious invasive weed internationally.

… Although not related to commercial pepper … the pink/red berries are sold as pink peppercorns and often blended with commercial pepper. The fruit and leaves are, however, potentially poisonous to poultry, pigs and possibly calves.

2 Responses to “California peppertree”

  1. Ellen Says:

    And it’s cross-reactive with cashew and pistachio allergies, as some folks have found when using “pink peppercorn” blends!

    (No peppercorn allergies in our household, but a child severely allergic to all forms of capsicum. We are always having to explain the difference given the ambiguity of the English word “pepper.”)

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    Penzeys Spices sells pink peppercorns, solo and in blends with true black pepper. It’s grown on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius for the spice trade.

    Indeed, as Ellen notes, it’s an anacard, along with cashew, pistachio, mango, avocado, and of course our beloved poison ivy and poison oak.

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