Tasmania’s wild mountain pepper can be up to five times hotter than ordinary black pepper – and it has quite a different taste sensation to chilli.
It’s rather like the Sichuan pepper used so widely used in north-east Asia to produce the famous tongue-numbing hot dishes of the region.
What makes Tasmanian pepper so prized by chefs for its lingering afterburn is a compound called polygodial (the experts say it’s a dialdehyde with a bicyclic sesquiterpenoid backbone, in case you really wanted to know).
It’s found in both the berries and the leaves of this attractive wild shrub which grows wild throughout Tasmania. The pepper bush is a Gondwanaland plant which evolved before that huge prehistoric continent broke up; that is why it has relatives in South America.