Mountain pepper, also known as native pepper, Tasmanian pepper, pepperberry, and pepperleaf is a native spice found growing naturally along the coast of south-east Australia. Just like other peppers, mountain pepper has a spicy, pungent taste that makes it perfect for use as a fresh herb, condiment, garnish, or spice to flavour paste and purees.
History of mountain pepper
Mountain pepper has been recognised as a medicine and flavour enhancer since Indigenous times. Indigenous Australians used crushed mountain pepper berries as a paste to treat toothaches, infections, and sore gums. It became used soon after European settlement as an alternative to black pepper. It was used in colonial medicine as a stomachic, substituting Winter’s bark as an ingredient in medications. In 1804, mountain pepper was recognised for its commercial potential. The first written description of mountain berry was by French botanist, Jean Louis Marie Poiret. In 1969, the name Tasmanian pepperberry became its popular term, replacing the botanical name of Drimys lanceolata.
Where does mountain pepper grow?
Mountain pepper can be naturally found in areas of higher rainfall in south-east Australia, especially forests and shrub lands. It can be found anywhere from mid-north New South Wales along the Hastings River catchment and as far south as Tasmania. Mountain pepper thrives after wet forest or rainforest canopies have been removed. Most wild harvest of mountain pepper comes from recently cleared land in Tasmania and Victoria.
How to use mountain pepper in cooking
The berries of mountain pepper are used in a similar way to black pepper, however fresh berries can also be used in cooking. The leaves of mountain pepper can be dried and powdered for use in cooking, or turned into an essential oil extract. Leaves are also used in baking products and cosmetic applications. Lanceolata, an extract of the dried and powdered mountain pepper leaf, is used in products ranging from olive oil to sweets.
The most popular use for mountain pepper is the dried berry. The berry can be ground and used as a seasoning or added to spice mixes, sauces, and chutneys, and used to flavour meats, pasta, pate, and cheese. Mountain pepper berries can be found a whole air or freeze-dried berries as well as in powdered form. Freeze-dried mountain pepper berries are distinctive with a rich magenta-purple colour and crumbly texture.
Health benefits of mountain pepper
Mountain peppers are extremely high in antioxidants, with an even higher antioxidant content than blueberries which are widely regarded as a superfruit. The high antioxidant content of mountain pepper means it is has various benefits for human health, including the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. The leaves of mountain berry also contain vitamin E, lutein, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron. In recent years, mountain pepper has been used as an experiment natural remedy for veterinarians.
What does mountain pepper taste like?
Besides the familiar spiciness found in other peppers, mountain pepper has its own distinct flavour which has been described as containing ‘aroma of Australian bushland, dry paperbark and herbs… perfumed with fruity lolly notes’. Fresh mountain pepper berries have a more sweet and fruity flavour, as well as the intense peppery kick which slowly builds up and lingers on the palate. Mountain pepper leaves have a milder taste than the berries, with a slightly cinnamon-like earthy taste.