While I was on a stroll in the high-perched village of Chamarel around the end of the month of April, I saw countless wild pepper trees, producing an abundance of pink peppercorn.
The plant’s scientific name is ‘Schinus terebinthifolius’; it is native to Brazil and has acclimatized at different altitudes. This species, resistant to insects and diseases, was first heard of from James Duncan in 1863. Its fruits are widely disseminated by birds and it has become invasive, as it produces lots of seeds that germinate fast. They are now produced as spices for export.
The elliptic, oblong leaves, are of a bright green color and the flowers smell of terebinth. The nectar and pollen yielding wild pepper tree produces subtly scented honey. Its anti-inflammatory, healing and antimicrobial medicinal properties are unfortunately not exploited here. Herbalists use some parts to treat rheumatism and as a remedy for toothaches and mouth infections.
In perfumery, its essence fragrance is sought after for its delicacy, and is particularly enjoyed when it enhances floral harmony. Soft and sweet with a feminine characteristic, its welcoming aroma invites the nature enthusiast to sharing.
In Mauritius, the pink peppercorn is used as a condiment with a spicy flavor, with an even slightly aniseed-seasoned and sweet taste, and aperitif and digestive characteristics. It aromatizes meat and fish and on rare occasions is used to lift exotic fruit salads.
The scent of wild pepper trees takes me back to the traditional distillery in Anse Jonché in the South East. Other herbs, flowers and plants such as lemongrass, Ylang Ylang, rosemary and geranium produce essential oils, which are distilled while giving off a pleasant, penetrating smell.
This stop in Chamarel is worth the detour, but many travelers and visitors unfortunately do not give the wild pepper trees a second glance, owing to time constraints or lack of awareness.
And yet, nature is where we find that which is fundamental, which cures every ailment known to man, and it is nature that dazzles us with what she has to give. All you need is flair. We are truly blessed for being surrounded by lush nature that we must preserve at all costs.
May the myriad of wild pepper trees in our forests and along our roadsides delight you. I for one, am sold! You just need to be shown the way!