Leatherwood Honey

Leatherwood honey farm
Leatherwood honey farm - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists

Leatherwood honey is honey made from honey bees collecting/using the nectar from the leatherwood trees’ (eucryphia lucida) flowers native to Tasmania.

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    What Is Leatherwood Honey?

    Leatherwood honey primarily comes from the wet, marshy regions of western Tasmania, where leatherwood trees provide nectar for the vast majority of the area’s honey bees.

    The leatherwood honey flavour is a unique and spicy one, which vastly differentiates it from other common honey varieties, but it can be slightly more difficult to obtain outside of Australasia.

    Leaherwood Tree In Blossom
    Leaherwood tree in blossom - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists

    How Do the Bees Produce the Honey?

    The moment the honey bee collects the leatherwood flower nectar it is mixed with an enzyme within the bees mouth. The enzyme itself is otherwise known as invertase or the “bee enzyme” which is secreted from the bees glands.

    When the honeybees return to the hive they will pass the nectar they have gathered between themselves further mixing the nectar with the “bee enzyme” reducing the water content and converting the nectar to honey.

    They will then deposit the leatherwood honey into wax cells, but at this point the water content will be too high. In order to reduce the water content the honeybees will fan their wings above the wax cell, this in turn will evaporate some of the water.

    Once they’ve finished the process the leatherwood honey will have a water content roughly below 20%. It will then be capped and the honeybees will repeat the process all over again. 

    The only difference between leatherwood honey and other honeys is that leatherwood honey is produced by bees who forage for nectar in a leatherwood setting.

    How Is Leatherwood Honey Produced?

    Leatherwood honey is produced by positioning the apiaries/beehives in areas with high concentrations of leatherwood trees. These are often located in the wetter parts of western Tasmania, where the eucryphia lucida are well-established, and flower for long periods of time.

    The leatherwood trees themselves will range in sizes between 2 to 10 meters (6 to 30 feet) in height. However they have been noted to grow up to 25 meters (80 feet) – in favourable conditions.

    They’re often found in areas with 1500 to 2500 mm annual rainfall, hence the higher concentrations in the wetter parts of western Tasmania.

    Typically beekeepers from the Tasmanian Honey Company position their apiary in the forest between January and March and remain there until their harvest is complete.  

    Leatherwood Blossoms
    Leatherwood Blossoms - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists

    R. Stephens Apiarists is an Australian-based honey producing company. Here is what they said when we asked them about the production of leatherwood honey:

    “Each year is different depending on the weather – and this in part is the difference in how much honey we can produce. Leatherwood trees only blossom in Jan-Feb (sometimes longer) – therefore our bees have to be very busy in that small time frame to collect as much honey as they possibly can.  On average we produce between 200 – 260 tonnes each year.”

    What Are the Benefits of Leatherwood Honey?

    Healing Wounds and Burns There has been positive effects of using raw honey on wounds & burns reported.
    Reducing The Duration of Diarrhoea According the NCBI consumption of raw honey has been shown to reduce the severity & duration of diarrhoea.
    Preventing Acid Reflux Research has shown that with honey lining the oesophagus and stomach, it actually can reduce the upward flow of undigested food and stomach acid.
    Fighting Infections Scientists in 2010 reported that honey through its protein (defensin-1) has the ability to kill bacteria.
    Relieving cold and cough symptoms Its been proven that honey may prove beneficial in relieving cold and cough symptoms. The World Health Organisation actually recommend honey as a natural cough remedy.
    Rich In Antioxidants High quality raw honey contains many helpful antioxidants. These include phenolic compounds like flavonoids and organic acids.
    Can Lower Triglycerides Triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance and are a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.

    This is based on raw honey, filtered or pasturised honey will break down and diminish these benefits.

    Leatherwood Honey vs Regular Honey

    Raw Leatherwood honey will include the benefits listed above, pollen, proteins, amino acids, antioxidants and often includes bits of honeycomb. Furthermore raw leatherwood honey carries a distinctive taste and texture.

    Now this is a stark contrast to mass-produced honey. Mass-produced honey is often pumped full of corn syrup, preservatives, and other fillers.

    This is after it has been pasteurized at high heat and filtered, effectively removing all of the beneficial aspects of the honey, such as pollen, proteins, amino acids, and antioxidants. It’s often said that mass-produced honey shouldn’t actually be called honey at all since it does not contain pollen.

    Furthermore, whilst mass-produced honey that is heavily processed has been banned in the United States, many sellers get around the law by first sending the honey to countries where honey is allowed to be imported, before selling it to vendors in America.

    Beekeepers working on leatherwood honey farm
    Beekeepers working on leatherwood honey farm - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists

    When You Should Avoid Leatherwood Honey

    You should avoid leatherwood honey if you have a health condition that makes you sensitive to sugar, as leatherwood honey is a food that is high in sugar.

    You should never give leatherwood honey, any kind of honey or honey products to children and babies under one year of age. Children under a year old have an underdeveloped digestive system that makes them vulnerable to a rare but serious condition called botulism.

    If your child is older than one year but has any type of health condition, please talk to their pediatrician to see if it is safe to give them honey/honey products.

    Leatherwood Honey as an Antiseptic

    Raw leatherwood honey can be used as a natural antiseptic. It has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that make it good for applying to wounds and burns.

    The benefits of honey as an antiseptic have been known for thousands of years, and date back to ancient texts. Leatherwood honey keeps moisture in the wound or burn, helping it to heal, while creating a natural barrier to exterior contaminants and dirt.

    Leatherwood Site
    Leatherwood Site - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists
    Transporting bees from West Coast to Mole Creek
    Transporting bees from West Coast to Mole Creek - Credit: R. Stephens Apiarists

    Is Leatherwood Honey Vegan?

    The Vegan Society do not consider honey vegan, this includes cornflower honey. They believe that because some honey farmers replace honey with a sugar substitute when harvesting, it will naturally lack the essential micronutrients of honey, thus being detrimental to the honey bees.

    Furthermore, they believe that in conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Which they believe leads to a narrowing of the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large scale die-offs.

    They also believe that many honey farmers will cull their hives post-harvest and clip the queen bee’s wings to stop them from leaving to start a new colony. Thus the Vegan Society does not consider honey vegan. That, of course, doesn’t stop some vegans arguing its fine if they source their honey from reliable sources that do not practice the above.

    Is Leatherwood Honey Expensive?

    Raw leatherwood honey can be more expensive than other types of honey because it is produced almost exclusively in western Tasmania.

    This means for other parts of the world, it is much rarer and sought out. We’ve seen prices ranging $3 to $5 per 100g but these really do vary depending on the country, outside of Australasia we’ve found the UK’s to be among the cheapest, averaging £1.90 per 100g.  

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