Garden Mystery

Mountain Pepperberry, Tasmannia lanceolata. A pepper bush native to the rainforests of Tasmania and southeastern Australia. High in antioxidants and vitamin C, with antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and in great demand by gourmet foodies, both the berries and the leaves can be dried and used as a pepper substitute, and a zingy addition to curries, game, cheese and even hot chocolate. In colonial times it was used like echinacea - to ward off winter colds and flu. It can be infused in vodka to make a useful, ahem, medicine. Super useful edible garden plant in a cool climate (you might find it in the UK advertised as Cornwall pepper leaf).

So where, you might ask, is the mystery? Is there a body? Has Miss Marple been called in? Well, here is the thing. To get berries you need a male and female plant, like kiwi fruit or hazelnuts. I bought a plant several years ago at some market, not realising the need for two. It grew, looked pretty, but no berries. By then I realised I needed another one, but couldn't work out which one I had, so typically did nothing for another couple of years. Then last year, it mysteriously produced berries. And this year, the same. With no partner. A sensible friend suggested a neighbour must have one. But no. No other pepper plants anywhere to be seen along the street, which is not surprising as it is hardly a common garden plant.

I have a horticultural wonder in my garden. And I will never have to buy pepper again.


Oh to have a garden! So you've eaten its "berries"? Tasty?
Unknown said…
Well i never! A. heard of such a berry/plant - how useful and B. heard of a plant miracle. Lucky You.
Anonymous said…
What a useful plant!

Maybe it got bored waiting for a mate and went ahead on its own?
Anonymous said…
I got berries on my solo plant as well. Maybe the pollen goes a LONG way! ;)
Jo said…
Sarah - Hot Hot Hot!
Lynda - I AM lucky!
Lucinda - Just like American celebrities!
Tanya Murray said…
Hmmm, I'm sure someone has aquired one very close in your neighbourhood and it does need to be reasonably close. We have one but don't know it's sex but Izaac has given us his male and female to look after while he is off on his world adventures so next year we will find out the sex of ours for sure.
Tanya Murray said…
PS I have used the leaves along with Australian limes and garlic scape in the chook cavity before roasting...YUM
Jo said…
Hi Tanya, after some more research, I'm pretty sure that mine is a male - males have multiple flowers and berries on a stem, females, single flowers. I still can't imagine where its mate would be..
Love the sound of the chook-stuffing recipe. I do want to experiment more with the leaves and pepper berries. I saw some dried, crushed leaves for sale the other day and thought, 'I could do that!'
ha ha! you have a floozy pepperberry tree cavorting with unknown other pepperberr trees during the night, under the cover of darkness!
do you need to dry the berries out before using?
Anonymous said…
Love to words floozy and cavorting, especially about plants. What is going on out there in gardens at night?
Jo said…
The secret life of gardens.. see, being a gardener is more exciting than previously assumed.
You can eat the berries raw, because of course, I have tried. They are so hot your mouth goes numb after a minute. So I haven't done it a second time. Dried, you use them like peppercorns, or the leaves like peppery bay leaves. I am going to try drying the leaves and popping them in various dishes. ..I'll send you some e, and you can experiment..
Jo said…
PS Apparently the dried leaves are being exported to Japan to use in wasabi. So yes, hot.
How fun to grow your own pepper! And immaculately conceived pepper at that.

Right now I have a garden mystery myself--Four O'Clocks are blooming all over the place, but not in places I've ever planted Four O'Clocks. They're blooming in the green beans and in between the marigolds ... where did they come from? I pulled the first dozen or so out because I thought they were weeds, but a few of them bloomed while we were on vacation, which is when I realized they were weeds at all (and deeply regretted pulling out the earlier ones).

We also have a rogue tomato plant growing beside the compost. No tomatoes yet. Soon, I hope!

Jo said…
I love (good) garden surprises. Hoping for tomatoes for you soon, and wishing I had some..
Jo said…
Fran, my spam folder ate your comment again, so sorry - really, you have berries on a single plant as well? Maybe there is a new strain of self-fertile pepper berries slowly colonizing Tasmania? This is a gardening sensation!

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