~ Mountain Pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) ~
Also known as Tasmanian Native Pepper or Tasmanian Pepperberry, it is a bushfood. You can use the leaves or berries when cooking. Have you heard of it?
Long before I met Michael and we got married and lucky enough to have our Liliana, growing Mountain Pepper was a long held goal after seeing it grow wild while bushwalking in Tasmania when I was travelling by myself.
I have just come in from harvesting some. Only a little since I disrupted some pademelon joeys napping near the Mountain Pepper and didn’t stay long so as not to disturb them. I don’t want to scare the joeys and they leaving the safety of the garden especially on such a hot day. This life we have created hasn’t happened overnight. It is a continuation of small steps one after the other. Working together on projects, the garden growing and evolving. We research and source different alternatives to either make, create or grow that are alternative to shop bought, is organic, cost effective and the outcome a quality product that just changes up the tastes of some of the homemade food we make.
Growing our own pepper was a must instead of relying on shop bought imported pepper or at least having an alternative to it. Just thinking aloud here but what is actually sprayed on the imported pepper before it comes through our tight quarantine regulations?
Mountain Pepper is a shrub native to woodlands and cool temperate rainforests of south eastern Australia. So distinctive it is easy to identify when bushwalking in Tasmania, depending on where it is growing it ranges from approx. 2 to 7 metres high. Such a good addition to your food garden.
At Fairy Wren Cottage we originally planted 5 shrubs but over the last ten years only one has survived and thrived. It is nestled in close to the cypress hedge, surrounded by Dianella tasmanica, commonly known as Flax-lily (it may have made the mountain pepper shrub out of reach of hungry furry garden visitors), the Mountain Pepper is protected from the south westerly winds and receives morning and afternoon sun in winter. It really is such a hardy plant if its young shoots are protected from opportunistic rabbits and the odd wallaby or pademelon.
Just this last winter we ordered two small female Mountain Pepper plants via mail order. I was thinking that it was a good opportunity since it was a flat rate for postage and there were some bare rooted fruit trees in with the same order, oh this is a great way to save on postage I thought, instead of trying to find plants at a nursery. But what a disappointment. The Mountain Pepper plants were tiny and very expensive. Unfortunately that can sometimes happen with mail ordering plants, they don’t always send what they have described in their catalogue. Would I mail order again from that particular nursery? The answer is no, but I will continue to mail order from nurseries that have always sent reliably good stock.
Sourcing Mountain Pepper plants and berries.
Thankfully Mountain Pepper is becoming more widely known due to chefs promoting Australian Bush Tucker and gardeners looking for a diverse range of food plants that include bush tucker plants.
Mountain Pepper plants are a little harder to source then the usual culinary herbs, plants and trees. Australian native plant nurseries are a good place to look.
There are some salt blends on the market that contain Mountain Pepper berries and I have seen them advertised online as well as seeing the berries in spice shops and health food shops. I don’t want to recommend the online stores purely for the fact that I haven’t bought off them but I am sure by googling Mountain Pepper you’ll be able to make a discerning decision for yourself.
Female and male Mountain Pepper plants.
Only the female plant bears berry like fruit, hence the name. The cream flowers develop into berries that are black & plump when ripe. This is a good fact to remember. Don’t come home from the nursery with only male plants because there won’t be any berries to actually harvest.
Drying the berries & leaves.
Dry the berries and leaves separately. On a single tray or plate lined with parchment paper lay the berries or leaves in a single layer, try to prevent them from touching. Leave in a cool, dry, draft free, dark place. Check on them every couple of days, moving the berries and leaves around. Depending on your climate and storage conditions the leaves and berries may take several months to dry completely. If you have a dehydrator, initially start the drying process by air drying the leaves and berries but finish the drying process in the dehydrator. (Follow the manufacturers instructions).
Keep in mind that the colour of the leaves fade dramatically if you dry them in a light filled room or in front of a window..
Cooking with Mountain Pepper and a recipe for you.
The leaves and berries can be dried and used as a substitute for ground black pepper (Piper nigrum). Be warned mountain pepper is a fuller flavour with more kick! A little goes a long way.
Mountain Pepper & Sea Salt blend.
1 teaspoon of ground mountain pepper berries.
2 tablespoons of sea salt or your salt of choice
Grind the mountain pepper berries in a mortar & pestle or a spice grinder, place in a small airtight jar, grind the salt separately and add to the jar. Combine well.
Label, keep out of direct sunlight and use straight away.
* Making up small batches as you go keeps the tastes fresh & vibrant, it really does make a difference. My tastebuds are different to yours so use the ratios in the blend as a guide.
*Spice Grinder. We have a coffee grinder that we use only for grinding small amounts of spices, pepper & salt blends.
If you are investing in a coffee grinder to use for spices only, try & get one where the cup can be removed for easy cleaning.
Mountain Pepper plants would be a great addition to a Food Hedge. You can read more about the food hedges at Fairy Wren Cottage HERE in my latest free ebook.
Happy gardening and cooking.
Take precious care,
April 3, 2021