Szechuan peppercorns are not true peppercorns but the berry from a shrub called Prickly Ash. The spice has a unique aroma and flavor that is not as pungent as black pepper and has slight lemony overtones. Szechuan peppercorns are one of the five spices in Chinese five-spice powder. Called sansho in Japan, they are used in the spice mixture shichimi togarashi, or Japanese seven-spice seasoning.
For stews: add them whole along with the other seasonings and remove before serving.