Visiting Sibylla Hess-Buschmann at Gary Mazzorana’s property

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The farm was set up in 1997 by Gary Mazzorana. Cut Leaf Mint was previously grown on the flat plateau –  however the main native food crops are now Lemon Myrtle and Aniseed Myrtle. Davidson Plums (the NSW variety) were also grown – however they were difficult to manage due to fruit fly. Next door is an organic banana farm and we have a few custard apples, jaboticaba and a Blue Almond and they taste somewhere between a Macadamia and a Cashew and they have a beautiful blue shell.

Backhousia citriodora

This variety (Line A) has red tips during winter which has no effect on the plant whatsoever. Line B has a larger leaf and the Limpinwood variety has a higher biomass ratio. All plants were all artificially propagated (tip cuttings) and they have the same chemical composition, which is important for uniform end products. The germination rate of lemon myrtle seed is only about 2%.

Sheryl Where did the original plants come from?

Sibylla They came from ornamental stock because there was very little data available as far as chemical composition from wild stock and that only happened in 1996.

Sheryl Were you looking for high oil content?  

Sibylla Not necessarily, although we do look for high oil content up to 2.5%(w/w), we focus on the main constituents Citral (Neral and Geranial) up to 97%, but the minor constituents were important too. This type is high oil yielding and a high citral variety. It is also very sweet, perfect for any food flavouring. The other has a saponin and is perfect for cosmetic products.

Sheryl So they are all classified as Backhousia citriodora?

Sibylla Yes – it’s just a different gene pool and as you can see there is a much higher biomass in this tree than the other one and very little timber so they are ideal for a herb/tea/spice or nutraceutical product. We are totally anti-spray and these trees have never been chemically treated and they are absolutely perfect as they are.

Sheryl One type had more of a red tip in winter than the other.

Sibylla Yes, Type A gets really red and the young shoots get brown just before turning red.

To be viable you need two harvesters – one for oil and the other for leaf.

Sheryl What time of the day do they harvest?

Sibylla Anytime, it doesn’t make that much difference.

Sheryl Have you done testing on that?

Sibylla Yes.

Sheryl The reason I ask is that they have discovered with lavender the best time to harvest is after 8pm at night to get a higher oil content.

Sibylla They are going for a high oil yield but our main product line is spice so we’ve tested the potential variation of leaf harvested from top/bottom, northside, southside, inside and outside and found no significant difference. What one is looking for is minimal variation in the end product, apart from seasonal variation we have minimal variation over many years in our products.

Sheryl What time of the year do you harvest?

Sibylla All year round. We have three markets: one is for foliage for the flower industry; one is spice and then to keep the orchard in good management, we harvest for oil so they are maintained for optimum growth.

Sheryl Do you export the cut foliage?

Sibylla No, just local.

Another crop growing on this property is anisata (Anetholea anisata) previously called Backhousia anisata and you can find that it is more prone to insects like scale and psyllid. The early flush shows red tips which are prone to be attacked by psyllid, however with careful management and regular cuttings one can avoid breeding the pest. These trees are only 2-3 years old, they were difficult to establish in these years of drought.

Sheryl Do you have underground irrigation? 

Sibylla Gary has just put in drip irrigation but it hasn’t been used. We did go for no irrigation but with the two droughts, the anisata suffers the most especially when they’re young.

Sibylla These trees are a very high trans-E-anethole variety. We have eliminated all methyl chavicol varieties as the trans-E-anethole is the customers preferred choice. The tree does not perform uniformly to start with; some trees will be in flush while others will show a perfect maturity, ready for cutting. The flushing trees are unsuitable to be cut and you can see here some rows look uniform. The repeated cutting is like toilet training to the tree. They all come on at once when you cut them at the same time. Occasionally you’ll get a tree that is flushing and it may be that that particular tree was used for propagation material so it is out of the cycle with the other trees. The trees are planted about 1 to 1.2 metres apart.

Article compiled by Sheryl Backhouse