Leatherwood Honey

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Leatherwood Honey

Leatherwood honey is, as its name suggests, the honey that bees produce from the nectar of the Leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida) trees’ flower. The Leatherwood tree is endemic to Tasmania and is found in the wetter forest regions throughout the western portion of the state. Leatherwood is the single most important nectar plant in Tasmania accounting for about 70% of all honey produced. Other sources of nectar include clover (in pasture), eucalyptus blossoms and blackberry. The variety of plants available to bees for nectar foraging may be used as a supplement to the Leatherwood tree in times of poor flowering or in parts of the season when Leatherwood does not flower, this is a preferable diet to feeding the bees sugar. The common name of the E. lucida is probably derived from the waxy, leather-coloured sheath that covers young leaves and petals, but may also be derived from the toughness of the timber. There are two types of Leatherwood in Tasmania, Eucryphia lucida and Eucryphia milliganii, both occur as understorey species. E. lucida is the most common and most important species to the Leatherwood honey industry. As E. lucida is an understorey species it does not reach the great heights of the famous Tasmanian eucalypts  (Eucalyptus obliqua and Eucalyptus regnans and delegatensis) but can reach up to 30 m in light wells or gully areas. Apis mellifera mellifera (Northern European breed) was first introduced into Tasmania in the early 1830’s, and is generally not used in the Tasmanian apiary industry although it is still commonly found in the forest in feral swarms that originate from earlier apiary activities. The bees that are used in the honey industry today instead of the mellifera race are the Italian ligustica bees, which were introduced to Tasmania in 1884. The Italian bees are better behaved and are capable of rearing broods late into the honey season. Leatherwood honey is slightly liquid with uniform crystallisation and a smooth creamy texture, and an ochre-yellow colour. The perfume is intense with notes of balsamic scents, which develops quickly into clean fresh notes of citrus fruits and white flowers. The flavour is clean and fresh, very balsamic, with lightly spicy notes in its long finish. Overall, the sensation of eating this honey is very pleasurable: it is creamy, buttery, low in acidity and melts in the mouth.

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Nominated by:Julian Wolfhagen