In general, finer-grain salts are used in cooking and for seasoning at the table. Flake salts are used as finishing salts, which are sprinkled on dishes, garnish-style, before serving. Big crystalline salts are thrown into soups and stocks, where they have time to dissolve, or are ground in mills at the table.
1. Maldon Sea Salt
The Blackwater River, in Essex, England, salt-laden from marshes, yields the snow-white flakes sold under the brand name Maldon.
2. Hiwa Kai
The name means "black salt" in Hawaiian. Like the Cypriot version (see No. 4), the color comes from charcoal.
3. Alaea Salt
Iron oxides in clay give this Hawaiian salt its pinkish cast.
4. Cypriot Black Lava Salt
Its black color comes not from lava but from activated charcoal, reputedly a detoxifier, mixed with flakes of Mediterranean sea salt.
5. Fleur de Sel
The salt is produced in many places, but the traditional version is from France. When the winds blow over the salt beds of Brittany, a thin layer of salt crystals forms on the water's surface, untouched by the soil below. Skimmed off, the pure-white, clean-tasting salt is called fleur de sel, or "flower of salt," the most prized French salt.
6. Kosher Salt
The name comes from its use in preparing kosher meat. It is a favorite with chefs because its coarse grains give them a good feel for exactly how much they are sprinkling.
7. Sel Gris
This high-moisture sea salt gets its gray color (and name) from the underlying sediment of the salt pans where it's gathered, traditionally in France.
8. Himalayan Pink Salt
Often sold in translucent slabs, this eye-catching salt comes from oceanic salt deposits, colored by trace amounts of iron, that were pushed upward when the Himalayas began to form 20 million years ago.
9. Sicilian Sea Salt
An unrefined salt that has been produced at the saltworks near Trapani, Italy, since the late 16th century. It gets its flavor from magnesium, potassium, and other minerals.
10. La Baleine Sea Salt
Harvested in the marshy region of the Camargue, south of Arles, France, this brand of evaporated sea salt has been produced by La Baleine ("the whale") since 1856.
Black, green, and white peppercorns are actually fruits of the same plant (Piper nigrum) that are processed differently after harvesting. Other peppercorns, including pink and Szechuan, are not members of the pepper family, but they are used as such because of their pungent, peppery flavor.
1. Green Pepper in Brine
The unripe fruit of P. nigrum, which produces black peppercorns. The climbing vine grows along India's Malabar Coast, elsewhere in Asia, and in Brazil. Harvested while green and then bottled in brine, the peppercorms have a softer texture than the dried type.
2. White Pepper
The dried seed of the black peppercorn, exposed after the skin and fruit have been soaked in water and removed. White pepper produces a milder burn than black pepper and does not mar the appearance of white sauces or soups.
3. Green Pepper
The dried unripe berries of P. nigrum. They have a fruity flavor.
4. Pink Pepper
Unrelated to black peppercorns, pink peppercorns are the fruit of the Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius), native to South America. They produce a numbing sensation, followed by heat. They're used primarily for their color.
5. Tellicherry Pepper
Grown in the northern part of India's Malabar Coast, these high-grade black peppercorns are larger because they're allowed to ripen longer. They are less pungent than regular black pepper.
6. Szechuan Pepper
These aromatic peppercorns come from the Chinese pepper plant (Zanthoxylum simulans), a small tree native to China that has no relation to P. nigrum. They are one of the ingredients in Chinese five-spice blend. The pepper produces a tingling, numbing sensation on the tongue.