QUEBRACHO: Yields rose/peach, warm reds with brown undertones
Source: Dried or powdered wood chips
Quebracho is a hardwood tree native to South America in regions of Argentina and Paraguay. Similar trees of the same family grow in Bolivia and Brazil. Quebracho Colorado was more commonly used for its high levels of tannins in the leather industry and the by-product of its wood for dyestuff. Its name comes from the Spanish meaning axe breaker because of its density as a very hard wood difficult to cut down. Colorado refers to the colour red in Spanish.
Originally the tree was not used locally for tanning or dyeing because it was so hard to chop down and breakdown the wood and also because of the remoteness of its locations. It was however later used in North Argentina as a dye for wool in traditional weaving and in carpets following the establishment of the wood exporting industry.
A French tanner in Argentina first discovered the tanning properties of the tree in 1867 and by 1870 the industry began in earnest. The tannin gave the leather a redish brown colour and an added durability and softness. In 1895, Argentina began exploiting the resource for the extraction of tannins on a larger scale to supply the leather industry with Paraguay following suit soon after.
By then the hardwood was in high demand for its strength and durability and used for telegraph poles, railway ties and timber for bridges. Wood logs were sent to France & Germany as early as 1872. The British owned the Central Argentine railway and this new link to local ports fuelled the British timber industry which in turn contributed greatly to deforestation by 1884. The wood was also shipped to many other European nations as well as the U.S.
At the turn of the century, the wood industry continued to flourish as exports far surpassed that of the tannin extract. This being unfortunate as the trees were quite slow in growth and once the areas were felled, most became grazing grounds for livestock or in some instances replaced by cotton fields. By 1924, it was the reverse with tannin exports at their highest levels. More than 200,000 hectares of trees were cut to keep up demands worldwide. Both industried continued into the 1930's. By then, the by-product of the wood processing industry started a secondary, smaller local industry as the chips and sawdust were use to produce the red dye colour for wool in Northern Argentina. The exporting of the wood and tannins continued well after WWII.
By the end of the 20th century, research into the concentrated tannins showed promise as a medicine in different applications, for example; abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. It's also known to have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
The medicinal properties of the wood were historically infused to help with digestive issues but the secretions of the tree were known to cause severe irritation to the skin. Legend has it that a woodsman became irate with his wife's vanity and flirtatious behaviour so he tied her to a Quebracho tree. Skin eruptions appeared all over her body from the secretions of the tree and the woman was disfigured the woman. She then agreed to change her ways.
Today, the Quebracho tree is farmed and also harvested selectively to guarantee its propagation. With reforestation programs, seedlings are replanted in large numbers with efforts to rejuvenate large areas and preserve this natural resource.