Mountain Pepper business booming at Budawang

Meraiah Foley and Tim Wimborne with Mountain Pepper trees on their property. Photo: supplied.
Meraiah Foley and Tim Wimborne with Mountain Pepper trees on their property. Photo: supplied.

When Tim Wimborne and Meraiah Foley moved back to Braidwood from Singapore, he just wanted a job to dabble in.

Ms Foley had accepted a role as an academic, and Mr Wimborne was keen to spend some time with his school aged kids.

A business selling the rare Australian Mountain Pepper seemed perfect.

They had discovered when they bought their property at Budawang that the rare species grew there.

With a small market – Mr Wimborne thinks only about seven tons were traded globally in 2015 –  it seemed like it could chug along quietly.

“We got back in November 2016, and started the business in December, and I thought that would be a nice little thing, and it just skyrocketed,” Mr Wimborne said.

Now, he is up to his ears in orders. Demand for pepper is so high, that he is now paying people to pick pepper for him.

“I’m just looking for more people, I just can’t get enough,” he said.

”I’m talking with other landholders in the area about growing orchards on their property, and if they want to, I will buy the pepper from them.”

Mr Wimborne and Ms Foley found the pepper – Tasmannia lanceolata – after they bought the property ten years ago.

A visiting ecologist identified the plant for them, growing wild in their woodland.

Australian Mountain Pepper

Found mainly in Tasmania, the mountain pepper is rare in NSW. Commonly used as a spice, it is also thought to have antimicrobial properties. 

Mr Wimborne and Ms Foley’s property Garaywaa just happened to have the highly specific climactic conditions the plant needs to thrive.

“The plant requires very specific growing conditions with regard to rainfall, climate, growing draining, and it just so happens that our farm at Budawang is a nexus for all those things,” Mr Wimborne said.

The mountain peppers growing at Budawang have a unique phenotype, probably a result of thousands of years separation from their Tasmanian cousins, Mr Wimborne says.

This makes them particularly suitable for use as a spice. With a slightly smaller berry, the peppers have a stronger taste. 

He sees the big advantage of the pepper as its broad appeal, suitable for both those who want to make a “quinoa and pepper dessert,” and those who just like pepper on their steak.

A unique citrussy flavour profile sets it apart from your standard black peppers however.

One of the really interesting things that people like is that the flavour develops on your palate over a period of time,” Mr Wimborne said.

“To me, it tastes like the rainforest.”

He is currently in the process of developing a 3,300 plant orchard.

The property had approximately 2,000 plants wild in the forest.

And with demand booming, he and Ms Foley are keen to help other people enter the industry. They plan to make their business an open source of information.

As the orchard will take some years to develop fully, his supply of the pepper is quite limited.

For this reason he’s decided to launch a twin business with the existing ‘Australian Mountain Pepper’, the ‘Braidwood Food Company’, which he will use to add value to existing pepper stocks.

Originally trained as a chef, Mr Wimborne will use this background to produce a range of products using the mountain pepper.

A soft launch is planned for Saturday March 24, where three products should be ready for sale, including both dried and whole pepper berries, a lightly smoked pepper salt and two different strengths of pepper pasta.

The Saturday also marks the launch of the new season for Australian Mountain Pepper.