- The berries from a perennial vine, Piper nigrum, harvested at different stages of maturity with a pungent taste. Unripe green peppercorns can be preserved in brine or vinegar and are used whole or crushed. If the green berries are allowed to ferment and then dried they become black peppercorns. White peppercorns are the dried, dehusked ripe berries. All forms are used whole for flavouring. Black and white are also ground for use as a flavouring agent or as a condiment.