There's one spice in your cupboard that you may take for granted. It's one that you use most often, and it's typically used right after salt -- it's the yang to salt's yin. Pepper! Just a grinding or two is enough to season a finished dish, but sometimes a whole lot of it, coarsely cracked, is amazing on steaks and other meats.
Pepper used to be the king of the spice world and was at one point in history the most valuable. Today pepper is cheap and, with the wide availability of exotic spices, it's easy to forget how important pepper really is to us.
Peppercorns are actually berries that grow in grape-like clusters on the Piper nigrum vine, which is native to India and Indonesia. Black, green and white peppercorns are all "true" peppercorns and come from this same plant. What differentiates them is how they're processed.
All these peppercorns can be purchased whole or ground. As you might imagine, green peppercorns have the freshest taste, black peppercorns the most pungent and white the mildest.
A few other spices also carry the name pepper or peppercorn, including pink peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns. But these peppercorns are unrelated to true pepper.
Browse the slideshow below to see recipes that feature the different kinds of pepper.
How much pepper do you use in your cooking? Let us know below.