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Tasmanian Pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) [Poiret] A.C. Smith


botanicalDrimys lanceolata (R. Br. ex DC.) F. Muell., Drimys lanceolata (Poir.) Baill., Tasmannia aromatica R. Br. ex DC.
山胡椒 [shān hú jiāo]
Shan hu jiao
EnglishMountain pepper, Native pepper
FrenchPoivre indigène
GermanTasmanischer Pfeffer, Bergpfeffer, Australischer Pfeffer
HungarianHegyi bors, Tasmán bors
LithuanianTasmanijos pipirai
RussianТасманийский перец
Tasmanijskij perets
Tasmannia lanceolata: Tasmanian peppercorn
Tasmanian pepper (200 dpi scan)
Tasmannia (Drimys) lanceolata: Dried Tasmanian peppercorns
Dried Tasmanian peppercorns
Used plant part

Dried berries, which resemble black pepper grains in size and colour. The powdered leaves also can be used.

Of the related dorrigo pepper (Tasmannia stipitata), the dried and ground leaves are used. In contrast, T. insipida has no culinary value.

Plant family

Winteraceae, a small family from South East Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Sensory quality

When eaten pure, the berries have a sweet taste in the first second only, followed by intensive pungency which again does not last very long, but gives way to a strange sensation of numbness, similar to water pepper and Sichuan pepper. See also negro pepper about hot spices in general.

Dorrigo pepper leaves and the leaves of Tasmanian pepper have a similar, pungent taste, without any trace of sweetness. They also share the tongue-numbing power that Chinese cooks are so fond of in their spice Sichuan pepper.

Tasmannia (Drimys) lanceolata: Tasmanian pepper
Tasmanian pepper, sterile plant

Main constitu­ents

The pungent principle of both the leaves and the berries is polygo­dial, a di­aldehyde with a bicyclic sesqui­terpenoid back­bone. The same com­pound is also respons­ible for the pungency of water pepper, an other­wise unrelated plant, and appears in traces in a Brazil herb, paracress.

In the essential oil, mostly monoterpenoid and sesquiterpenoid hydrocarbons were found.


Australia. The plant is mostly found in Tasmania, but also grows in Victoria and New South Wales.


Genus name Tasmannia (neo-Latin) refers to the place of origin, Tasmania, which in turn is named after Abel Tasman (1603 –1659), a Dutch explorer. Species name lanceolata is Latin for lance shaped, derived from a Latin noun lancea lance.

Selected Links

Herbie’s Spices: Native Pepperberry Herbie’s Spices: Mountain Pepperleaf Vic Cherikoff Food Services: Native Pepperberries Gewürz-Bazar: Tasmanischer Pfeffer

Tasmannia (Drimys) lanceolata: Tasmanian peppercorns
Tasmanian pepper, plant with ripe fruits     © Robert Coghlan

Tasmannia insipida: Flowers
Flowers of T. insipida, a close relative of Tasmanian pepper
The Tasman­ian Pepper is known and available in Australia only, where it plays an in­creas­ing rôle in local cook­ery. It is used for typical Austra­lian food, e. g. emu ham­burger or kan­garoo steaks; it is common to marinate meat with a mixture of crushed Tasmanian pepper berries and vegetable oil before grilling or frying. Stews with longer cooking period, on the other hand, are seasoned with the ground grains before serving, because long simmering destroys the taste of this spice.
Tasmannia lanceolata: Tasmanian pepper flowers
Flowering Tasmanian Pepper plant

What is called bush food in Australia is a new culinary style that makes use of tasty indigenous plants: lemon myrtle, acacia seeds (wattle­seed), an Australian relative of tomato with tiny fruits (bush tomato, Solanum centrale) and local herbs lend a typical Australian touch to the food. Bush food is inspired both by traditional cookery of Australian farmers and by cooking procedures used by Native Australians (Aboriginals). It is also signi­ficantly influenced by Italian cooking; pasta flavoured with Tasmanian pepper or pesto made with wattle seeds instead of pine nuts (see also basil) are typical bush food creations. On the other side, bush food is often much more spicy than each of aboriginal, farmer and Italian foods; there is probably some indirect influence of the many Asian immigrants that have moved to Australia in the past decades and that have established a general tolerance to well-spiced food.

At present, bush food is re­stricted to Australia, but maybe it will share the fate of cajun food, a peasant-derived cuisine from Louisiana (USA) that today enjoys wide popularity even outside of its home continent (see sassafras).

Tasmanian pepper is almost unavailable outside Australia; it is difficult to substitute. Dried water pepper seeds, also hard to obtain, are the best substitute I can suggest.

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