This is a privilege many Australians can enjoy, but don’t take advantage of nearly enough.
Mountain pepper or Tasmanian native pepper (Tasmannia Lanceolata) is a shrub that grows in the alpine regions of Tasmania and south-east mainland Australia. It thrives in the type of cool, wet habitats that can be found in mountain gullies. The native plant produces aromatic leaves, and during the autumn months, the female species develops small fleshy black berries on its distinctive reddish stems. Both the leaves and berries can be dried and used as a cooking spice, and when milled, the hardened berries make for a terrific substitute for conventional pepper.
Compared to our everyday pepper however, mountain pepper has more of a herbal dimension, and packs more of a spicer, sharper, hotter punch.
It’s why Indigenous people use whole peppercorns or crush the spice into a paste, and apply the pepper to toothaches or sore gums, says Trish Hodge, the managing director of Nita Education, an Aboriginal cultural education program. “I guess when you’re on fire, you’re not going the think about anything else."
Mountain pepper has not only served Indigenous people as a flavouring agent for food over generations, but by and large, as a traditional medicine. Due to its high antioxidants, mountain pepper has been documented as a treatment for a variety of illnesses from stomach aches and colic, to skin disorders and venereal diseases. The tonic, made from ground berries, leaves and bark is also recorded as being used by early European settlers to treat scurvy.