Demon pepper unmasked

“A friend” reached out to me with a strange request. “What could Tasmanian mezereon possibly be?” Seems he’d been served it at a fancy place in Germany.

The name tinkled a faint bell, which turned out on closer listening to be Daphne mezereum, a pretty shrub whose twigs are highly toxic, an extract being used to blister the skin (why? — wart removal?) and to treat arthritis (again, why?). That didn’t seem right, and anyway, the plant isn’t from Tasmania.

There have also been racehorses of that name, but when I offered that as a possibility, my friend said only “might have been, judging only by the taste”.

At this point I naturally had the bit between my teeth, so to speak, and set off in hot pursuit. Further searching revealed the item in question on the English language version of the fancy place’s website, to which I refuse to link as it assailed me with cheesy music. Looking at the website, though, all of the English seemed to be just a bit off. And the menu item in question:

Tenderlion [sic] of beef iced with hibiscus
Tasmanian mezereon au jus
A bunch of pumpkin, serrano-thai-asparagus
and risotto

As an aside, why bother even having an English language site if you can’t be arsed to pay for it. Anyway, off to the (presumably original) German version:

Rinderfilet mit Hibiskus glasiert
Tasmanische Bergpfefferjus
Kürbis, Thaispargel-Serrano-Bündchen
und Risotto

Now we’re getting somewhere. A quick search for Tasmanian mountain pepper, and Bingo!. Tasmannia lanceolata.

As my friend noted, “that is super interesting”.

I wonder what the Germans would have made of Cornish pepperleaf?

5 Replies to “Demon pepper unmasked”

  1. I grow this in my garden here in Australia. A powerful spice and I have always wondered why it hasn’t taken off in the world. I just wish our first European settlers weren’t so unimaginative with the common names they gave plants here, mountain pepper… please. This plant deserves it’s own unique common name, especially as it doesn’t taste like ‘normal’ pepper.

  2. I remember reading about the Mountain Pepper in Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low which I bought in Tasmania. I then saw the plant in the Mount Field National Park in Tasmania but there were sadly no fruits (I have a picture), but the leaves are also peppery… Wonder what the aboriginal name was? I did try growing it unsuccesfully later on. It’s quite common in botanical gardens in England (usually named by its synonym Drimys lanceolata) – I have pictures from 4 different gardens, but not Cornwall, as well as Stavanger botanics in Norway.

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