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Australian native pepper or bush pepper are several species of the genus Tasmannia. Tasmannia plants are evergreen, woody shrubs up to 2 m high and 2 m wide. Their leaves are dark green and shiny, 4-8 cm long and lanceolate. The berries are pea-sized and purple-blue to black. All Tasmannia varieties are dioecious, which means male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Dried seeds and leaves of some species are used as a spice in Australia. The first white settlers started to use them as a substitute for black pepper to which they are similar in taste. Over the last decade bush pepper has become popular as a spice of the modern bushfood cuisine. The hot and spicy taste of Australian pepper is caused by polygodial.

Native pepper may be used as a substitute for normal black pepper in most recipes. The berries are extremely hot and have to be used in much smaller amounts. Their heat only lasts for a short time and is followed by a sensation of numbness, similar to that of Sichuan pepper. Australian pepper berries are available whole or ground. The leaves are milder and are usually sold ground.


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Australian pepper varieties

When talking about Australian pepper, most people have Tasmanian pepper (bot.: Tasmannia lanceolata) in mind. Other species used as spices are Dorrigo pepper (bot.: Tasmannia stipitata) and Alpine pepper (bot.: Tasmannia xerophila). The seeds of pepper trees (bot.: Tasmannia insipida) also contain polygodial but are not used as a spice.


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