Pepper business booming

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

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 global market it seemed like it could chug along quietly.

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

“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,” he said.

“I’m just looking for more people. I just can’t get enough.

“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 10 years ago.

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 just happened to have the highly specific conditions the plant needs to thrive.

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. 

A unique citrussy flavour profile sets the pepper apart. To Mr Wimborne, this has a very specific taste, “to me, it tastes like the rainforest,” he said.

Mr Wimborne is currently in the process of developing a 3300 plant orchard, in addition to the 2000 plants growing wild on his property.

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 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 pepper