Posted by: edibleplanet | January 27, 2010

Horopito – native pepper

Growing up horopito (pseudowintera colorata) was the cool plant that allowed you to play tricks on anyone unfamiliar with our native trees. We’d tell them to pick a leaf bend it in half and rub it on their tongue. Nothing would happen so they would do it again. Then the peppery, chilli-like hit would come and because they had kept licking it while nothing was happening they would get a whack of heat and we would fall about laughing.
It never occurred to me at the time, that you really could use horopito like pepper or chilli.
Recently Karl and I decided to give some a go and had the opportunity to pick some leaves that we then dried out in a barely on oven. Then we ground it down in the blender. From quite a few leaves we got a small amount of rub – hence why in shops it is so pricey! Also the trees are pretty hard to grow – we killed our attempt. As well as this, the tree is fairly slow growing. Who needs to grow up tall fast when your leaves taste like fire? Browsing fauna aren’t too keen on eating you!
I put some of the dried horopito on steak the other night just as I was cooking it in the pan so it was on both sides. It was for a steak salad so I sliced the steak thinly and it had a nice heat on the outside.
When you ate the steak, the heat didn’t hit you straight away like pepper it grew from nothing as you ate it. It is similar to pepper in taste but has its own unique notes so you know you are eating something other than black pepper.
There are quite a few recipes on the web for using it so might have to carry out more experiments.

– Fiona



  1. Can you please tell me how the horopito powder you sell in your Edible Planet Online Shop is prepared? Are leaves sun-dried prior to grinding? Also, is it grown using organic methods? I follow a diet of primarily raw foods and would like to possibly buy some. Thanks!

    • Hi Paula,
      The horopito is collected by hand and then sorted and then they are oven dried at a very low temperature. I believe the leaves are collected from the wild (with permission). Hope that helps.

  2. where do i purchase this in wellington please

    • Hi Peter,

      I’m not sure where you would go in Wellington (not being a resident of your fine city). We sell it in our online shop, but I’m sure you could find a local supply. Moore-Wilson and some of the more specialty stores might be your best bet.

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