Also known as mountain pepper leaf and mountain pepper, these aromatic shrubs grow naturally in the forest and the cool climate of southern New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Traditionally, the plant was used for its incredible antiseptic properties as well as its flavour. Both the leaves and fruit are used. Aboriginal people suffering from sore gums and toothaches would crush the berries with water to make a paste and applied the paste to treat the infection.
The mountain pepper plant is used both ornamentally and in food preparation, and the tree produces two products: the berry and the leaf. The berries are dark-blue to black in colour and have a sweet, aromatic peppery taste. The leaves have strong antimicrobial activity against food spoilage organisms and can be used for cooking, preserving foods and medicinal purposes. The leaves, stems and berries produce approximately three times the antioxidants of blueberries.
Wherever we use pepper in the book, use dried pepper berry unless leaf is stated and I would urge you all to replace you pepper grinder with a native pepper version.
High in antioxidants and a stunning addition to cooking. The berries are great chewed on for a mid-arvo energy boost too.
◎ Common Name: Pepper Berry, Pepper Leaf, Mountain Pepper
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Tasmannia lanceolata (syn. Drimys lanceolata)
◎ Comparison: Aromatic pepper
◎ Seasonality: All year dried
◎ Region: Tasmania & Victoria (cool climate)
◎ Taste Profile: Pepper Berry is stronger when dried, has a pleasing woody fragrance with vague pepper and dry, cinnamon-like notes. The flavour is similarly woody and camphor-like until its sharp pepper taste and lingering heat becomes apparent. Pepper Berry has an oily, mineral-like, turpentine aroma.
◎ Types: We offer Pepper Berry in two main varieties; as a dried whole fruit, and as a dried & ground whole leaf, as well as blended in some of our other spices.
Whole-fruit Dried: Whole dried berries, ready for your pepper grinder. Use as you would any pepper. But expect a fruitier spice than normal, with an extra kick.
Whole-leaf Dried & Ground: We love this spice in just about any thing savoury and it actually works wonderfully in creamy desserts too. This product comes as dried and ground whole leaf in a 50g resealable, recyclable food safe pouch.
- Mountain pepper leaf is rich in antioxidants which help protect cells against the damaging effects of free radicals and may prevent or delay cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, as well as autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases.
- They have significantly higher antioxidant capacity than blueberries, which are considered one of the richest sources of antioxidants among fruits.
- Mountain pepper leaf contains high concentrations of Vitamin E, zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron and lutein, a compound that plays an important role in eye health and wellbeing.
- Mountain pepper leaf is also used to assist in the slow absorption of glucose from the stomach, allowing for stabilisation of blood sugar levels.
- Mountain pepper leaf was traditionally used for its antiseptic properties and to treat sore gums and toothaches.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses
Traditionally, mountain pepper was used for its antiseptic properties and flavour. Both the leaves and fruit were used. Indigenous Australians suffering from sore gums and toothaches often crushed the berries with water to make a paste, which was then applied to the mouth to treat the infection. It was also added to food as a flavour enhancer.
Western & Modern
Mountain pepper leaf is used in spice blends and baking products, and goes especially well with sauces, chutneys and condiments. It adds a delicious peppery bite to pasta dough, savoury biscuits and bread, and can be added to curries, slow-cooked foods, cheeses and egg dishes, to enhance the flavour. It also lifts the profile of alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka, white rum, Cointreau and tequila.
Rich in phytonutrients, mountain berry extract is not only an excellent tonic for the body but it’s fast becoming a sought-after ingredient in skincare too. While eating nutrient-dense foods helps to build antioxidant protection, applying directly to the skin also helps protect against free radical damage that causes dehydration, premature ageing and inflammation. Mountain pepper berry contains greater antioxidant potential than even the humble blueberry. Applying to the skin can help strengthen cells and counteract free radical damage while balancing the complexion to give an all-over glow.
There is evidence to show that the Native Pepper Berry fruit and leaves could aid in protection of the stomach lining, use as an anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic, anti-allergic and as a pain reliever.
The plant has a long history of medicinal use in Aboriginal culture as an anti-inflammatory and as an aid for arthritis. The Australian government has researched many of the more well-known native plants to investigate the health benefits. The Native Pepper Berry leaves and fruits have shown to have exceptionally high antioxidant levels (higher than almost any in the world), high contents of vitamin E & A, phenolic compounds, zinc and magnesium.
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Pepper Berry is featured in these recipes in Warndu Mai:
Warndu Products featuring Pepper Berry
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble