Friday, January 24, 2014

Frankincense (1) Plant, History, Harvesting

Plant:

  • Boswellia genus of trees.
  • Plant is dioecious (both male and female)
  • Grows in hardy conditions (arid soil, rocky terrain)
  • Slow growth (tree recedes and emerges several times before it really stays above ground)
  • Largest zones of production include Somalia, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia
  • Short tree, takes up to 8 to 10 years before ready for harvesting
  • Ideal plant management includes harvesting for 5 years then letting tree rest for 5 years

Image Source
Harvesting:

  • Resin is gathered by cutting a slash in tree, then gathering the resin that pools and hardens under the slash.
  • Once the resin hardens, slash is deepened. 
  • Harvested 2 to 3 times a year from May to Sept, for each slash made. Last collection is usually the highest quality as it is the most aromatic
  • The extra sap that pools further down the tree is gathered (not sure what they do with it.. lower grades?)

Image Source

Quality:
  • Resin ranges from clear to opaque, opaque is usually the best quality
  • Determined by colour, purity, age, aroma. 
  • 2 types: silver and hojari are considered the best but best is regional specific. Silver is better in hot, arid conditions, Hojari in damp, cold conditions.
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Scent, Essential Oil, :
  • Scent is spicy with a citrus and balsamic undertone
  • Essential oil is created from steam distillation of the resin
Ethical Issues:
  • Over-harvesting, deforestation, and poor crop management are endangering the plant
  • Tapped trees germinate less than a quarter of what a non-tapped tree produces
  • Tapping too much resin weakens the tree, thus placing tree at risk when over-exploited
  • Traditional areas where the tree is grown are subject to being taken over for agricultural produce, introduction of other species and deforestation due to climate or urbanization.

Textual information comes from: Wikipedia, MrsGrieves Herbal, How Stuff Works, BBC


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