It might not be lavender season but there is plenty of activity at the Bridestowe Estate.
Workers spent Tuesday of last week harvesting and distilling the farm’s kunzea ambigua crop.
A plant in the myrtle family Myrtaceae, kunzea is found mainly in eastern Australia.
About five years ago the crop, commonly known as white kunzea, was planted in a bid to expand and diversify the estate by having a crop that grows during lavender’s shoulder seasons.
Bridestowe farm supervisor Peter Chitty said they were producing a small yield but it was a good quality product.
“It seems to grow very well in poorer country that other things won’t grow in,” he said.
There was a failed attempt to grow rosemary in that soil, where lavender definitely would not grow, but the kunzea crop has flourished.
“We don’t fertilise it or spray it, we just let it do its thing,” Mr Chitty said.
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The only maintenance the crop has required is harvesting.
After harvesting the kunzea on September 4, workers used the estate’s still to extract the native Australian plant’s essential oil.
Bridestowe production manager Anna Robertson said the process was still very experimental.
The tractor cut all the flowers from the crop, with the flowers then transferred from the harvester to the chute.
From there the harvest is loaded into a bin, which is then lowered into the distillation unit.
This is when the process of extracting the essential oil begins.
Each bin carries about 250 kilograms of cut flowers.
Kunzea produces an oil that is said to have the scent of the Australian bush.
Still a new crop for Bridestowe Estate, Ms Robertson said they planned to store the oil for now.
“We aren’t going commercial, it’s just experimental,” she said.
The kunzea harvest is a great reason to test the estate’s machinery ahead of the lavender season.
Mr Chitty said it was a good way to smooth out any bugs, but it also created a lot of work.
“We can’t have the lavender oil tainted with the kunzea oil, so everything had to be rubbed squeaky clean once we’ve done this tiny harvest,” he said.
For more information about the estate, visit bridestowelavender.com.au