Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Bee's Knees: Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey

Leatherwood Honeycomb

Honey that deserves a second look- this is what Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey is. After mentioning this honey in a previous post, I thought it was worth another glance as there is more to this exceptional honey than meets the eye. Originating from the flowering parts of Tasmanian Leatherwood trees, this resplendently unique tasting honey may be the last of its kind. I never anticipated that such superlatives could be used in describing, of all foods honey, but this one is certainly worth every adjective it is embellished with. You might say this is a saccharine romance, and indeed it is. With a honey so rare and so irreplaceable, I would even go as far as to say that this needs to be on your list of flavours to try before you die. Yes, put this on your list alongside truffles, Pierre Hermé desserts and possibly, purely out of interest the durian fruit, but nonetheless, this honey is a must.

Leatherwood Honey assumes a distinctive spicy flavour, that either makes you a supporter or a detractor. This honey has been known to divide people; some just cannot abide by the honey’s unusual taste and smell. Do not get me wrong, Leatherwood honey still tastes of honey; and because it is not so sickeningly sweet, the honey and the honeycomb lends to being eaten directly. Although when spread on a thick piece of toast it also cannot err. Just imagine, vibrant amber hues of this sticky delight flavouring your palate with nectary accents and bouquets of fresh flowers. The honey reads like a fine wine, yet the process in achieving such depth of flavour comes naturally without any human interference. Most blended honeys loose much evidence of the flowers from which the bees extracted the nectar from, however with this honey the Leatherwood plant’s scent manifests itself in the end product. Press your nose up to some of this honey and you will smell a strong aroma of fresh flowers.

Leatherwood Honeycomb

Why could this honey be the last of its kind? Well, when you think of Tasmania, you envisage lush green woods, mist covered mountains and untouched landscapes. Tasmania almost seems like the last frontier; however this portrait is not quite as picturesque. The Leatherwood tree is under threat due to severe logging and is putting the Tasmanian honey industry at risk. You see the Leatherwood plant is endemic to Tasmania and accounts for up to 70% of all the honey being produced in this region. So no Leatherwood Trees ultimately mean, no Leatherwood Honey and unfortunately due to the narrow-sightedness of urbanisation, apiarists and the honey industry in Tasmania are not a main concern on the agenda. The problem is slowly being addressed, but at what cost should we compromise a resource so unique to this region?

Leatherwood Honeycomb

Do not despair; Leatherwood honey is under threat, but thus far not extinct. This honeycomb was procured at the recent Grower’s Market. I asked the stallholder how to properly eat the honeycomb and he said that there are two ways. One is to eat the honeycomb wax and all; another is to spit the comb out once you have extracted all the honey in your mouth. As unpleasant and uncouth as this sounds, I do prefer the latter method as the notion of eating wax does disconcert me a little. I was reassured by the honey-man that eating the wax bears no ill effects on your digestion or your health but it still felt like I was swallowing a candle. And seeing as that I have already endorsed knife-licking, biscuit-dipping and more recently the Homer Simpson style of ingestion on this blog, I have no qualms about sanctioning wax-spitting as well. I am really not one for eating anything that resembles a candle, however if you are not opposed to swallowing the wax, then by all means.

FURTHER READING: Leatherwood honey industry 'under threat';
Leatherwood: Honey from the forest


Claudia said...

Great photos! With the honey comb I had the same problem: it feels like swallowing a candle. A candle should provide light - it shouldn't be digested ;-)

jules said...

love your honeycomb photos...bring on the wax spitting

Ellie said...

Those are some gorgeous shots! And I love Tasmanian Leatherwood honey - as do my relatives in Korea, whenever someone from the family goes back, we always take kilos upon kilos of the stuff back for them!

:: Lavender cupcaker :: said...

so interesting..

Great shot! :)

wheresmymind said...

Is there a little cartoon devil on the honay label named "TAZ"? ;)

alexa said...

The July issue of Gourmet magazine had an article on Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey ("The Secret Life of Bees, pg. 108). Nice photos, but interesting that they didn't mention (as far as I can recall) Leatherwoods being in danger of extinction.

Erin S. said...

love the photos...nice work!

Monisha said...

Hi Jenjen -

Thank you for the beautiful post, like you suggested I've included Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey in my list of delicacies to try, I'm very curious to the spicy flavour of the honey - hopefully I can get my hands on some too, and slather it on freshly baked bread....uhmmm..heaven !!

Orchidea said...

Beautiful photos... I love honey, m favorite is acacia honey.

ilingc said...

hi jenjen,

that's some yummy honey you have there. im with you: bring on the honey and the spitting. :)
but i am nay durian! (not even for interest sake)

Helene said...

I can only dream about getting my hand on that baby! I am so envious.
The pictures are exquisite. Great job!

jenjen said...

Claudia- I agree with you, candles are definitely not on my list of things to try before I die.

Jules- yeah bring it on!

Ellie- thanks, what a great idea for such lovely presents to give to family. They would make such great presents.

lavender cupcaker- thanks!

wheresmymind- right now there isn't a Taz, but hey you never know what they decide to do.

Alexa- wow I should check out that article. Its funny they never mentioned the trees being under threat due to logging as its a fairly pressing issue.

Erin s- thanks!

Monisha- iots definitely worth having it on your list. And if you only get to try it once, it should be enough!

orchidea- oh yes acacia honey is also beautiful, i have tried it with some yoghurt at breakfast. It was a great way to start the day.

ilingc- im glad not too many people were disgusted by the wax-spitting, I think it's the wax-eating that is much harder to swallow : )

Helene- maybe we could do a swap. You send me some of your beautiful pastries and I could send you some honey!

Orchidea said...

In winter I often have yoghurt with acacia honey for breakfast. It is a great way to start a day... light but energetic.

Trig said...

I've been reading a lot of information about Tasmanian leatherwood honey for my college Australian Gastronomy project and came to the exact same conclusion as yourself. Everything I've read tells me it's distinctive spicy flavour is truly an acquired taste, and I've used a quote I came across that "some people swear by it and others swear about it"

ut si said...

Hi there,
Just found your post on Leatherwood honey...I posted yesterday on worldwide decline of bee populations & being a Tasmanian had to include the destruction of our Leatherwood trees too! Great to see the message is being spread far & wide.