STRAWBERRY GUM Eucalyptus olida
Natural occurrence: Montane woodlands near Tenterfield, NSW.
Description: Medium-sized tree up to 10 metres. Forms a crowned canopy
in mature trees. The leaves are gray, and new growth has an attractive
purple colour. The leaves are typically about 10cm long with two
distinct stages: juvenile foliage is a broad-shaped, and adult leaves
are slender in mature trees. The leaves also have a strong aroma,
somewhat reminiscent of passion fruit or strawberries. The leaves are
used for flavouring and perfumery. The bark is stringy, and young
branches are smooth. The flowers are cream coloured and are followed by
woody seed capsules.
Cultivation: Prefers full-sun conditions. Tolerant of low soil
fertility. Prefers well-drained soil. The tree is frost tolerant down to
– 8 C degrees. Strawberry gum is ideal for temperate conditions, but can
also grow in subtropical conditions. Leaves can be harvested as
required. Harvesting the leaves for culinary use and cut-foliage can
done individually or by pruning branches back by 60-80 cm. Regular light
pruning also maintains a shorter tree and denser canopy more suited for
Use: The strawberry gum has several uses due to the presence of
essential oils in the leaf, and has been harvested commercially for
flavouring and perfumery since the 1980s. Strawberry gum leaf is used to
enhance the flavour of cooked fruit dishes, and in deserts, spiced jams
and confectionary to bring-out the classic “berry” flavour. The leaf is
used fresh or dried, and as a ground spice. It can also be used in
native herb teas and carbonated beverages.
The main ingredient, methyl cinnamate, which imparts a fruity aroma and
flavour and composes of up to 98% of the essential oil, with ocimene
being the remainder at 2%. The oil yield is very high, varying from 2 –
6% (fresh weight). When distilling, a natural solvent needs to be added
to the still during distillation to prevent methyl cinnamate crystals
clogging the still.
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