The Tarkine is where this pepper thing all started. Rolling red dirt hills, deep gullies full of giant Myrtles, Blackwoods and fast flowing rivers with natural tannin stained waters. Cows not far away. Often rainy. Sunny in blocks. Quite windy. Rugged and remote. This is pepper country. The heart and soul of Wild Pepper Isle.
Wild harvest is the backbone of the Pepperberry industry
Most of our Pepperberries are sourced through wild harvest and we pick them ourselves. That way we can select our favourite berries just as we like them. Wild harvest is a romantic and natural idea for some yet at the same time exploitative and intrusive to others. In truth it is often misunderstood.
Wild harvest means that the plants we pick were not planted by anyone. They were self-sown or put there by a bird. It does not mean that these plants come from undisturbed forest land. Pepperberry thrives in ground that has been disturbed through land clearing for forestry or agricultural purposes. Pepper can grow like an orchard in such areas, provided that disturbance is followed by a long period of recovery.
Wild harvest can encourage conservation
We wild harvest on the forgotten corners of farmland from the Tarkine through to Tasmania’s east coast. That includes natural bush areas such as shelter belts, wild life corridors, paddock edges, gullies and other “non-productive” parts of the farm. By paying farmers royalties for berries we harvest we are encouraging them to conserve the natural bush. As most farmers appreciate, natural bush provides a boost to farm productivity by enriching the ecosystem, keeping pests in check, providing shelter for animals, lowering the water table, reducing salinity and reducing erosion.
We’re looking after our patch
Wild harvest needs to be done responsibly. We’ve been wild harvesting for four years now and have observed some areas where pepperberry is in decline. Old trees eventually die and are not replaced if there is no fencing to exclude livestock, which trample young plants. To combat this problem we are working with farmers to propagate the best performing plants to enrich the natural pepper population in these areas and ensure that the best genes survive. We aim to plant out a minimum of 500 plants in 2019 on farms that we wild harvest as part of our farm enrichment program.
The future is in orchard production
Pepperberry is a young industry. As it grows it will need to transition to orchard production. We want to participate in this transition and are currently in the process of establishing a small orchard in Montrose, just out of Hobart. We are very fortunate to have access to eight different properties that we harvest across three different growing regions in Tasmania – this enables us to select from a diverse population to suit our needs.