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Tasmanian pepper or mountain pepper is an attractive evergreen shrub from Australia. Its berries and leaves are used as spices with heat similar to pepper. It is mostly used in modern bushfood cuisine. The Tasmanian pepper plant grows 2-3 m high with an open form. The dark green leaves are lanceolate, the stems red. As the name suggests, Tasmanian pepper is native to Tasmania but also to New South Wales. It loves moist, cool gullies in rainforests.

When people speak of Australian pepper, they usually mean Tasmannia lanceolata. Other native pepper varieties are Dorrigo pepper (bot.: Tasmannia stipitata) and Alpine Pepper (bot.: Tasmannia xerophila). Tasmanian pepper was the first Tasmannia species used as a spice by white settlers. It was exported to Great Britain, where it is cultivated and sold under the name Cornish Pepperleaf. It is mainly used in the kitchen of Cornwall.

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Culinary use of Tasmanian pepper

Tasmanian pepper tastes slightly sweet at first, then very hot. Its heat is caused by polygodial, which is also found in water pepper. Tasmanian pepper leaves a sensation of numbness in the mouth, similar to that caused by Sichuan pepper.
In contrast to some other Tasmannia species the safrole content of Tasmanian pepper is relatively low. It is further lowered through selective cultivation of plants with low levels. Safrole was used as an aroma in foods and perfume. It is banned today because it is liver-toxic and thought to be carcinogenic.

Berries and leaves of Tasmanian pepper are sold dried, fresh berries are available frozen. Both may be used to substitute normal pepper in most recipes. The berries of Tasmanian pepper are much hotter than black pepper. About one tenth of the amount of black pepper is sufficient. Pepper leaves are milder. Ground leaves may be used in the same amount as ground black pepper. Tasmanian pepper is exported to Japan, where it is used to flavour wasabi.

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