Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the fruit, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The berries are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the fruit around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer around the seed. Once dried, the fruits are called black peppercorns.
White pepper consists of the seed only, with the fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by allowing fully ripe berries to soak in water for about a week, during which time the flesh of the fruit softens and decomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Alternative processes are used for removing the outer fruit from the seed, including removal of the outer layer from black pepper produced from unripe berries.
Green peppercorns, like black, is made from the unripe berries. Dried green peppercorns are treated in a manner that retains the green color, such as treatment with sulphur dioxide or freeze-drying. Pickled peppercorns, also green, are unripe berries preserved in brine or vinegar. Their flavor has been described as piquant and fresh, with a bright aroma. They decay quickly if not dried or preserved.
A rarely seen product called pink pepper consists of ripe red pepper berries preserved in brine and vinegar. This pink pepper is different from the more-common dried "pink peppercorns", which are the fruits of a plant from a different family, the Peruvian pepper tree.