Mountain Pepper Leaf and Mountain Pepperberry grow naturally in the forest and the cool climate of southern New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Today however, it’s berries are being cultivated in plantations across the a lot the cooler parts of Australia.
The 5 meter high tree has shiny dark green pointed leaves with scarlet stems. It has small, waxy, cream flowers which develop into dark charcoal brown pepper berries, only born by the female plants.
Since only half the plants bear fruit, and it takes several years to begin fruiting, the pepper berries are a highly valued commodity. It is therefore fortunate that the leaves of the Mountain Pepper plant also have a distinctive flavour and are a more immediate commercial crop.
Traditionally, Mountain Pepper was used for its antiseptic properties and its flavour. Both the leaves and fruit were used. Aborigines suffering from sore gums and tooth aches often crushed the berries with water to make a paste and applied the paste to treat the infection. It was also added to food as a flavour enhancer.
The Native Pepperberry is known for its ‘hot’ flavour due to the polygodial properties and can be used in the same way as conventional pepper. They are fruity upon first taste, followed by a spicy herbal dimension. The berry can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. You’ll find the berry whole, ground, frozen or fresh and can be used in a variety of ways. The berry leaves a deep purple colour as it infuses.
The north east coast of Australia is incredibly well suited to produce macadamias and is the site where they first evolved 60 million years ago. With just the right soil and just the right climate. There are four species of Macadamia, two of which are used for production of Macadamia nuts in Australia (Macadamia tetraphylla and M. integrifoIia).
Before European settlement, Aboriginal people congregated on the fringes of the rain forest of Australia’s Great Dividing Range and fed on the seeds of two evergreen trees, one of which they called ‘Kindal Kindal’ which was the macadamia. Aboriginal people had other names for macadamia including Goomburra, Boombera, Jindill (gyndnl) & Baupal.
They were considered a delicacy and were treasured and collected wherever they were found. Aboriginal women would collect macadamias and take them to their feasting grounds, carry them as a non-perishable food source or trade between tribes. They would remove the husk and crack the shells using stones.
It wasn’t until the 1850s that Australian macadamia trees attracted the attention of European botanists Walter Hill and Ferdinand Von Meuller when they noticed the beauty of the trees they found growing in the rainforests of Queensland.
While the first plantation was established in the 1880s, it wasn’t until the development of successful grafting techniques and the introduction of mechanical processing that commercial production of the tough nut became feasible.
As the leading producer of macadamias in the world, Australia contributes more than 30% of the global crop. Each year 70% of the Australian crop is exported to over 40 countries. Our major export markets are Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Europe and North America.
Today macadamias are the third largest Australian horticultural export, an outstanding achievement for an industry that only commenced commercial production in the 1960s. The Australian macadamia industry is now worth more than $200 million annually, employs thousands of people and contributes millions of dollars to regional economies.
As a world leader, the Australian industry takes its responsibility to future generations seriously. It makes a significant annual investment in many initiatives including conserving the endangered wild macadamia species, regenerating rainforest on farm to preserve the natural ecosystem, and developing biological controls to combat pest and disease.
The nut is creamy, almost like the inside of a fresh coconut. They must be dried for storage and shipping, however. Even when dried, they still end up with a rich, buttery flavour.