Eucalyptus Leaves: Flavor Profile
Eucalyptus leaves are a favorite tea, extract and oil ingredient, due to the minty, herbal oil they produce. The leaves, native to Australia and Tasmania, come from the blue gum tree, an evergreen variety. And their leaves have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. The dull greenish-grey dried leaves contain a fragrant oil, which has numerous uses. Sore throat soothing teas, aromatherapy and facial ointments are all produced from high-quality eucalyptus leaves.
Overall, eucalyptus leaves have a strong, herbal aroma, and their oil has a minty and menthe-like flavor.
Culinary Uses of Eucalyptus Leaves
In the kitchen, eucalyptus leaves tend to be used in specialty dishes. Although the leaves must be prepared properly. Undercooked eucalyptus can be harmful and cause stomach distress. That’s why you won’t find many recipes that call for raw leaves.
The leaves and their oil, though, are most commonly used in natural medicines. Eucalyptus oil has soothing and healing properties. A few common medicines include:
- Throat lozenges and teas
- Facial masks
- Healing shampoos
The natural minty oil of the leaf is sometimes used in infusions and jellies. The oil can be used to created infused sauces and butters, as well as in purees. Eucalyptus-infused mashed potatoes are a great dish, as starches complement the leaf’s flavor well. Eucalyptus jelly is another traditional preparation, and nearly any fruit can be combined with the leaves to create a rich, soothing jelly.
Eucalyptus is native to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, although the trees have been introduced in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and California. The tree is part of the myrtle family and has long been used in Australia.
Eucalyptus trees grow very tall. They can reach up to 300 feet in height and are known for being water hogs. The trees can steal water from nearby plants, and they’re invasive in some areas. Yet, that hasn’t stopped their spread. Originally cultivated as a fuel source by British migrants in Australia, the tree has spread across the world. Eucalyptus wood is a favorite building material in Asian countries, and remains a popular fuel source.
On average, about 600 trees can be planted per one acre. And a single acre produces roughly 3,600 pounds of the dull-green leaf each year. Once harvested, the long pod-like leaves are dried, using a kiln-drying process, and the dried leaves are then sold whole or distilled to produce eucalyptus oil.
Today, India and parts of China are some of the world’s largest producers of commercial eucalyptus. Thanks to India’s tropical and temperate climates, eucalyptus thrives there. Tamil Nadu, the Indian state at the country’s southernmost peninsula, is one of the world’s largest growers and exporters.
Australian Aborigines utilized the leaves to make dyes, as well as in traditional medicines. And they had uses for every part of the tree. The bark was used in traditional healing drinks, and the wood was used to make didgeridoos, a musical instrument.
European explorers didn’t officially recognize the tree, though, until the 1700s. Explorer Captain James Cook, along with a small crew, landed in Botany Bay near Sydney, and they collected many specimens of various types of native eucalyptus trees.
Today, eucalyptus trees are a prized cash crop. Because they grow so quickly and have many uses, the trees are grown in abundance in many developing countries and locales, including Timbuktu and throughout Africa.
About Our Eucalyptus Leaves
Burma Spice works with eucalyptus producers throughout India, although primarily in the southern regions. In particular, we work with farmers in the state of Kerala. Known for its cinnamon cultivation, eucalyptus production has increased significantly in recent decades in the state.
Our growing partners tend to be located in Kerala’s coastal districts, which offer a hot, tropical climate ideal for growing the tree. The region is known for producing flavorful and high-quality leaves, which have a high oil content and bold flavor. We source dried leaves in bulk, and we sift and package them by hand at our South Florida facility.