Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Love Letter To A Pepper Tree

Pepper Tree,
I was on my morning walk when I first saw you.  I had barely finished my morning coffee, so I didn't recognize you, already standing there in a moment of your history on the side of the road, your patient, relaxed limbs outstretched. The sun was starting to kiss your crown. Last night, the Santa Ana winds blew some of your berries onto the ground and me out of sleep and into your path. If any moment had been different, we may never have met. Perhaps this is how many encounters in Ojai's fields and orchards begin. I picked up one of your twigs, heavy with pink pearls, as though grabbing for a necklace someone dropped.
"Are these peppercorns"? I asked my friend.
"Yeah. They're everywhere. If you look higher in the tree, the berries are still green."

The size of the world rushed right into that spot, up and over me. You were everywhere. All around, all along, on previous day's walks, in previous years. I had no idea you would even be here in these mountains. Blushing the color of your berries hanging from your branches and others, I stopped for a moment.

Did you see this road being built, killing some of your friends, maybe some of your offspring? Cars don't cover their mouths when they cough around you. Neighbor dogs defile you. Children walk to school and stop to carve things into your bark, not knowing it is your skin. Yet every year, you stand and you forgive and you offer gifts. If we have time, we notice, and are thankful.

I picked through your wispy green leaves for some berries to remember our meeting.

At home, each unwrapped present glistened in oil, heavy with your untamed scent. They reminded me of Eucalyptus groves, silvery-bright and damp. I want to become stronger, like you, when crushed into smaller pieces.

Pepper Tree, I will remember the day we met with fondness every time I use your gifts, casting them over nourishment in my kitchen, until they are gone, until you are gone, and only the faint, proud scent of you on my cutting board remains.

"You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one."
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Fresh Peppercorn, Mint and Chamomile Tea
Burwell General Store 

Serves: two

In a small, heat-safe teapot, place ten fresh chamomile blossoms, ten fresh mint leaves, and six smashed pink peppercorns.  Pour 14 ounces of hot but not boiling water to cover.  Steep five minutes, pour through strainer into mugs, serve to a cherished one.  

For dried: place two chamomile teabags, one mint teabag and six smashed pink or white peppercorns, into a heat-safe teapot, steep five minutes, and serve. 


  1. Wow! I never thought of "where peppercorns came from." So if I could only take one spice with me...scratch pepper because I can grow them.

  2. Beautiful story and photos, Christianna. You are so talented :) And I love the tea idea -- sometimes I add cayenne to my tea for a little kick, but haven't thought of peppercorns, thank you! xo

    ps-- it's so lovely that when you take your morning walk, you come upon PEPPERCORN trees :) wish I could walk with you!

  3. This is a beautiful, beautiful ode to a pepper tree. So lovely!

  4. CM-
    Amazing. Sensuous, luscious, vivid descriptions of the tree and your connection to the tree. A really nice, fresh take on an otherwise normal ingredient. Thank you.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Stay positive!