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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wildflower Honey, Swan's Maine Beekeeper, Albion, Maine

I got this honey for the holidays. It is packaged (and likely harvested) in Maine by Swan's Honey, which is now owned by Lincoln and Karen Sennett. The Sennetts own a family farm in Maine that has been in their family for over 100 years, and kept bees to pollinate their crops (blueberries mostly). In 2002 the Sennetts bought Swan's Honey so that the 70-year old Maine company would continue. Since buying Swan's Honey, they've expanded their bee operation and now harvest, package and market Swan honey as well as produce and sell candles and balm. In addition, they are active in the beekeeping community, teach beekeeping, and provide pollination services to other farmers, some as far away as Florida (for the orange and other crops). Local honey production is generally blueberry and clover.

The raw and unfiltered wildflower honey that I have has a reputation of being authentic to the area. Clara wrote a brief online comment about it that says it has the same flavor as honey she remembers eating that her grandmother harvested.

It is an opaque soft, light yellow color. It is very, very creamy and looks as if it has been whipped, with the consistency of melted marshmallows.It has a very smooth flavor as it gradually melts in your mouth. It doesn't have a complicated taste, but a solid, cool, honey (slightly floral) sweetness throughout with the same after taste. Given the consistency and the robust, consistent flavor it would be perfect on buttered toast, in tea, in baking, in hot cereal or just eating right out of the jar. Yum.

I saw a few online sites that sell it, if you aren't in Maine and interested. Just search for Swan's Maine Beekeeper Raw & Unfiltered Wildflower Honey and the sites will pop up.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Radish Honey, The Bee Folks, Mount Airy, MD

Surfing one day online I found a website: where you can buy all sorts of interesting American honey and honey/bee products. I got my radish honey from them.

As per the website, the owners started out as a family of backyard beekeepers in Maryland but loved it so much they quit their day jobs and started beekeeping full time. Four or five years later, they have a great website and an impressive collection of honeys and honey products, including candles, hand creams, soap, and lip balms. A quick count of the number of varieties of honey they produce tallies to 17, with some that I've never come across before, like: butterbean, meadowfoam, snowberry and radish. I guess that a bee can make honey out of anything that it pollinates, but radishes? I guess radishes have flowers. A quick look online confirms that they do. Radish flowers are delicate, four petal flowers.

The radish honey has crystallized since I got it- it was liquid when it arrived but I stored it in a cool corner of the kitchen. It is a mellow opaque yellow color. The crystals are evenly spread throughout the jar. Sometimes crystals form in patterns, starting on the top or sides of the jar. It hasn't been the case for this honey. The crystals are also quite large. I can see their chunky outline when I dip a toothpick in. The taste is clean, clear, smooth and slightly spicy, a little like cloves. There is no discernible aftertaste, just a smooth taste of sweetness at the end. It has a very simple, clean taste but it is unusual in the subtle kick it has. It would be nice in some teas, on toast, in hot cereal and in baking.

If you want to try it, or other American honeys, you can buy it online at The Bee Folks website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Miel de Garrigue, Le Mas des Abeilles, Col le Pointu, Bonnieux, France

This honey reminds me of a great trip we had in France one summer. We rented a gite in Malaucène in Provence, and with our compact rental car did a day trip to Senanque Abbey in the Vaucluse, near Gordes. I'm pretty sure I found this in the gift shop there. It was a clear summer day with the sun beating down. The noise of cicadas filled the air, and there was lavender in bloom in long fields leading up to the abbey. The drive to the abbey was on small, twisty roads through the mountains, and when we arrived the landscape impressed us, but more importantly, we were just happy to finally be out of the car. The lavender was a bonus.

I bought this particular honey because I didn't know what 'garrigue' was. It turns out it means 'wild hillside' honey- which isn't that descriptive. A quick search online and I found that garrigue honey often contains: thyme, rosemary, white clover, asphodel (a flowing plant of the family Asphodelaceae- google it and you'll see its pretty white flowers), or blackberry. These are wild hillsides in Provence, after all.

This particular garrigue honey comes from Le Mas des Abeilles in Col le Pointu, which is in the heart of Provence (and not far from the abbey). They have a fantastic website: complete with spectacular photos of the countryside. They describe their corner of Provence as 'paradis,' and I won't argue the point. You can also visit their operation; they have the dates/times that they are open to visitors on their website. I wish I had known and we would have made a side trip to visit them.

They produce artisan honeys that are raw, natural and unpasteurized. Apart from a variety of honeys (lavender, thyme, acacia, forest, rosemary, orange, etc.) they also produce and sell nougat, pralinos, honey candies, mustards and vinegars. And if you REALLY like one of the their honeys you can bypass buying the 250 gm jars and go straight to the 5 kg buckets. Had I known, my luggage might have been that much heavier on the way home...

The garrigue honey is a warm chestnut brown color. It has started to crystallize since I bought it (which happens naturally within a few months of being harvested). It is a rich, full-bodied honey with fragrant floral overtones, and a molasses undertone and after taste. It isn't too sweet, subtle or complicated, but very satisfying. I think it would be delicious on hot buttered toast, plain yoghurt, or in hot cereal. It may have too much flavor to use in tea, unless you'd like to change the flavor of the tea slightly.

It doesn't look like their website is set up to do online purchases, but they do have a 'contact us' email option, in case you are interested.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Australian High Country Honey, Beechworth Honey, Corowa, Australia

I have a large jar (17.6 oz) of Australian High Country Honey from Beechworth Honey. They have a great website that outlines their history and their philosophy among other things, and you can buy their products online, which are extensive. They have everything from different kinds of honey, to honey lotions and soaps, to sparkling honey nectar, to beeswax candles, to honey candies. They also list recipes on line, offer guided tours of their facility and surrounds, and offer an e-newsletter. Quite a production.

From the history outlined on their site, their honey business started in the 1880s with Benjamin Robinson. He was mining for gold at Beechworth but turned from being a miner to being a apiarist who supplied 'liquid gold' to the mining community for 'gold gold.' His family has continued the business (presumably not for 'gold, gold' anymore, alas) ever since.

The area seems to be made for honey. It has an abundance of flora, including eucalypt forests. The range of honey that they offer reads like an exotic menu: Blue Gum, Black Box, Gray Iron Bark, Red Stringy Bark, Snow Gum, Tasmanian Leatherwood. That must be some eucalypt forest!

Flash forward four generations and Jodie and Seven Goldsworthy are continuing in the family business. The Beechworth Honey factory is located near Corowa in New South Wales and forms the center of an extensive honey producing network. If you are interested, here is their website:

I have 'Australian High Country' honey and didn't know what the 'High Country' was all about until I looked it up. Apparently Australia has 'Australian Alps' that stretch for 400 km from Canberra, through southern New South Wales, and along the Great Divide into eastern Victoria. The million and a half hectares of rocky landscape is home to national parks and wild life protected areas. This wild country is also the setting for the famous Australian poem written by Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, 'The Man from Snowy River.'

The Australian High Country honey that I have is a warm, burnt orange-red color. It is very thick. It has a very smooth texture, almost glassy, and takes time to dissolve. It isn't too sweet. It has a very subtle background taste of molasses, with buttery overtones and a woody, slightly smoky, aftertaste. This is a hearty, husky honey- robust and very satisfying. It would be good in hot cereal or in tea.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Boyds and the Bees Honey, Waltham, MA

This honey is a rare find. I got it from a chance meeting with Maria who, amongst many other things, does beekeeping as a hobby in Waltham. She has three hives and the honey she collects is for family and friends- so, you won't be able to buy or find any (alas). I got to talking with Maria one night and learned a lot about beekeeping, and the ins and outs of being a part-time beekeeper. She's nearly convinced me that I could beekeep in the urban suburbs of Boston. I'm not sure if my neighbors would be too happy to have a hive next door in a tiny postage-stamp yard, but Maria says that they wouldn't notice. I think some of my neighbors (especially the ones in the condos out back) have binoculars at the ready, so I think they'd notice. They notice if I put the trash out too early, after all. I think they'd notice me wearing beekeeping garb puffing smoke into a box. Even so, I'm starting to think about it. Perhaps I could camouflage the hive to look like lawn furniture (a small side table?), or strategically place it so that it is hidden somewhere- in my itty bitty yard, this won't be easy.

But back to Maria's honey. It is a rich, golden color and if you look closely it has small to tiny flecks in it- probably bits of hive that got through the filters. It is surprisingly thick and my toothpick is happy to stand in it indefinitely. It has a wonderful texture- very creamy, and it dissolves slowly. It has a fresh first taste of floral and something herby but herby-sweet not herby-bitter. The closest I can think of is that it is like sweet grass. The after taste is subtle, an echo of the first taste and then you are just left with a lingering sweetness. This is a very nice, and somewhat complex honey. I asked Maria what the flower source(s) is/are and she says she can't really say- whatever is in the neighborhood but she did mention that there are raspberry and blueberry bushes nearby. She lives in a quiet, family, suburban neighborhood with some mature trees and some with larger, wilder lots. Next time I'm there I'll walk around and see if I can identify other likely sources. She says she also does two collections a year- spring and end of summer/fall (if I remember properly) and that the sources and subsequently the honey flavor is quite different depending on the season in which it was collected. I'm not sure when the honey I have was collected but it is likely that it is from this summer/fall.

This honey would be great in tea, over hot cereal, on hot toast or anywhere else. I think it might also be a good honey to make honey candies with.

Thanks Maria for sharing some with me!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blueberry Honey, New England Cranberry Co., Lynn, MA

I can't remember exactly where I picked up the blueberry honey I have. It is packaged and distributed by the New England Cranberry Company which operates out of Lynn, MA, just up the coast from Boston. They have a website that states that they were founded in 1994 to initially create exciting cranberry products.If you are interested here is the link:

Their first product was Colonial Cranberry Sauce and it was such a hit that they then expanded into other things, including pepper jellies, chutneys, mustards and honey. Apart from blueberry honey they also sell Cranberry Bog Honey. The label on the jar and the website state that "our honeybees create this delicious honey by pollinating the blossoms of blueberry bushes. There is no infused essence here, just all natural flavor." Sounds great.

The honey has a reddish tinge to it. It is clear and thick, but at the same time runny. It is very smooth. You can roll it around in your mouth for a few seconds before it dissolves. It is uncomplicated; the first and after tastes are very similar. It is sweet, but not too sweet and has a straight honey taste of sweetness with a very subtle undertone of something herb-ish that is faintly bitter. After having a few tastes trying to find any hint of blueberries I can say with confidence that there is no taste of blueberries (alas). This honey would be very good in tea or baking, anywhere you might want to add some robust honey sweetness without changing the flavor too much.

If you are in New England you might find this honey in your local supermarket, but if you go to the New England Cranberry Co.'s website you can also order it online.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wild Texas Guajillo Honey

A few years ago I visited my friends Robert and Monique in Houston, Texas and while I was there I picked up some wild Texas Guajillo (gwah-HEE-yoh) honey. I had no idea what kind of plant Guajillo is. A quick look online and I found out it is a wild desert bush (described as a medium sized shrub that can grow larger in some cases) with prickles that is a member of the acacia plant family, and is native to Southwestern Texas and Northern Mexico. It has white flowers that bloom from November to April, but mostly in March and April.

Apparently settlers in Uvalde County (southwest of Austin) in the 1870s discovered caves and hollow trees full of this honey. They capitalized on their find and soon became famous for producing and shipping honey all over the world. In 1900 (a good year for the settlers come apiculturalists), Uvalde County produced over 160,000 pounds of Guajillo honey and took first place at the Paris World's Fair (presumably for honey). In the region honey now figures in their folklore- with tales of bee-caves guarded by rattlesnakes and ghosts that have rooms filled with honey in pure white combs that are thirty feet thick. Wow. This I would like to see. Uvalde County seems like my kind of place. I'm surprised I've never heard of it before.

One site I found that sells Guajillo honey warns that: 'Guajillo honey is a light golden color. It it's dark... it ain't true Guajillo.' Consider yourself warned and be wary of all those who claim that their dark honey is the real thing.

The Guajillo honey I have is indeed a light golden color (so far, so good). And it comes in a very nice glass jar. Native Nectar out of San Antonio packages the honey I have. The site says that the honey is "bottled in a one pound Italian green glass jar, which is in the shape of an ancient Etruscan olive oil vessel." I'll give them this- the jar and presentation are one of the best I've seen for honey (and I've seen a lot of honey). Texans don't do things half way.

My honey has crystallized a little in the few years that I've had it but it still retains it light, golden color. The smell has an undertone of caramel. It is a very clear, runny honey in its liquid form. It has a very simple, light and delicate flavor with a very subtle (very subtle) flowery undertone. It is sweet but not overly sweet and has no hint of bitterness or any other strong flavor. The after taste is no different from the first taste. I think I was expecting something different- what with the green, glass jar in the shape of an ancient Etruscan olive oil vessel and the story of bee-caves guarded by ghosts (and having won first place at the 1900 Paris World's Fair). I think I was expecting something really unusual. This is not to say it isn't a good honey- it has a nice, simple flavor and a good, clear, smooth texture. It would be very nice in tea.

If anyone is interested and you are too far from Texas to get some locally, I found it for sale online at this site, but I think there is a typo in the price:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Heather Honey, Portugal

I've never been to Portugal but having read a little about their honey production, I think they are due a visit. Portugal, like many other European countries, produces a lot of varieties of honey. Bee keeping, as one site I viewed claimed, is a 'traditional practice well implanted in several regions.'

Portugal's climate is considered to be Mediterranean, but the geography of the country is diverse with many micro-climate systems. It has plateaus, river valleys, mountains, and rolling plains. On average, though, it is sunny and hot and has the distinction of being the warmest European country.

It seems that honey is produced everywhere, even on the islands off the coast (the Madeira and Azores archipelagos). I would suspect though, since heather is likely to be in the mountains, that my heather honey came from somewhere in the interior of the country. Unfortunately, the label doesn't say.

A quick search online didn't bring up much about my honey. It is distributed by, which seems to distribute a lot of food goods (honeys, teas, vinigrettes, etc.). Of note, though, I did see that there is a lot of research related to Portuguese honey having to do with nutrients, pesticide residues and flavonoids. Yes, there are pesticide residues in honey. No, they aren't at levels that are concerning (in case you were wondering).

The heather honey I have is very dark brown and thick. At room temperature it is mostly liquid but just starting to crystallize around the upper rim of the jar.
I'll say up front that this honey is not for everyone. It is very strong and slightly bitter, with undertones of molasses and something else, something herby in a bitter way. It tastes a little like medicine. It isn't very sweet. It isn't complicated in that it doesn't have many subtle flavors- the flavor stays true from beginning to end with a slightly more bitter after taste, but it is very unusual. If you like robust flavors that are bitter, this is the honey for you. I like it but I wouldn't bake with it or use it in a tea- it would change the flavor too much. I would gladly have it on hot, buttered bread though.

I can't say where you can find this Heather honey from Quinta de Jugais. I got it (of all places) at TJMaxx. I've mentioned before that TJMaxx sometimes has the strangest things- and odd (international) honey is one of them. You just may need to visit Portugal if you want some.

Monday, October 4, 2010

(Wildflower Blossom) Kauai Island Honey, Kilauea, Hawaii

A jar of Kauai Island Honey from Hawaii came to me a few years ago from a friend who was visiting Honolulu for the summer. It is produced by Danbury apiaries. A quick search online to find out more about them landed me a great article about Chester Danbury, the apiculturist and owner of Danbury apiaries; His operation has over 400 working hives and produces more than 50,000 pounds of honey a year, and is regarded as one of the larger honey operations in Hawaii. It seems that Hawaii's tropical climate produces 4 or 5 harvesting seasons; Bees don't need to rely so much on honey to carry them through the year so honey can be harvested more frequently. Peak harvest months are June through October.

I also found out that Danbury's bees are home grown. He didn't buy them (as is common) but caught them all. Can you imagine? I wish I lived closer to Kauai Island because I think I'd like to meet this guy.

If you want to learn more about honey production on Kauai Island here is the link to the article:

I had to google Kauai Island to find out exactly where it is. The official tourist website claims it is 'a tropical garden island paradise' that is 20 minutes by air from Honolulu. It is 550 square miles and the northernmost of the main Hawaiian islands. From the site it does sound like Paradise. There are places like 'coconut coast' where you can kayak. Or, if you'd rather, you can sun on endless white sand beaches, or see spectacular cliffs, or snorkel, or see natural lava tube formations, or visit freshwater lagoons or wildlife sanctuaries. You pick. It sure beats lugging groceries home from Stop & Shop on a windy, rainy, October day in New England. But I digress.

Of note, Kauai Island is also known as the first place Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii, at Waimea on the west side of the island in 1778 (why he ever left is mystery to me), and Lumahai Beach on the North shore is where Mitzi Gaynor 'washed that man right out of her hair' in the movie South Pacific.

The honey I have say's 'wildflower blossom' on the label. Not sure what wildflowers they are talking about, but likely a blend. From the article they mentioned 'Christmasberry honey' from Christmasberry bushes and described them as a delicacy. I've never heard of this bush but honey from them is reputed to also have medicinal properties. I have to say that having read about Christmasberry honey, I'm a little sad to have only wildflower blossom honey.

This honey has been sitting in my pantry for a few years and in that time it has started to crystallize. I notice that not all honey crystallizes in the same way. This Kauai Island honey crystallized in a layer at the top of the jar and in a layer at the bottom of the jar, with a layer of liquid honey between them. In its liquid state it is a dark, deep brown honey. It smells like molasses. The top crystals are very fine and make a smooth cloudy sheet. On first taste the top crystals' texture is very interesting. The honey crystals stay together in a gummy mass but as they melt there is a burst of mintiness followed by a molasses taste. Very interesting! The liquid honey is very thin and runny, and in small quantities is golden brown. It has a strong molasses taste from beginning to end. The bottom crystals are much more granular, but also have that molasses taste. Wow! If this is their run of the mill wildflower blossom honey, I wonder what Christmasberry honey taste like? I just might have to fly over to Kauai Island and find out (and also meet Mr. Danbury and find out what kind of man catches his own bees)!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pure Honey, Middle Earth Farms, Amesbury, MA

I go to my local farmer's market when I can (Brookline Farmer's market) and recently picked up some honey from the Middle Earth Farms stall. I asked the women who sold it to me what the flower source was and she said, "everything around the farm." Well, that cleared that up.

I don't know much about Middle Earth Farms, except that it is a chemical-free farm that supplies arugula, Asian greens, bok choi, collards, garlic, kale, potatoes, salad greens, Swiss chard and tomatoes to local farmer's markets. Although they don't list it online, they also produce their own honey. It comes in small ($4) and large ($8) jars with a simple label that simply says, "Pure Honey, Middle Earth Farms, Amesbury, MA." With a name like Middle Earth Farms I think I would have been more creative with the label; I'd have dragons or mythical creatures on it. It could be the Middle Earth Farmers are just too busy farming, though, to give the label much thought.

The honey itself is a deep amber color and a little cloudy. It is on the thick side and completely liquid at room temperature. It is a smooth honey with marked floral tones in the beginning. These make way for a subtle smoky flavor as a final taste. It is not too sweet. Overall, this is a nice, somewhat complicated honey. I think it would be great on toasted bread, or in a black tea. It is runny enough also to mix into yogurt. Very nice.

If you are interested, Middle Earth Farms has stalls at Farmer's Markets around the Boston area: Andover, Brookline, Everett, Marblehead, Newburyport and Stoneham. You can also find their contact information online. Given that the flower source is whatever is going on around the farm, I suspect that the character of the honey will change depending on the season. I got this honey in August, but I'm not sure when it was collected.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maple Honey, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

My friends Richard and Ronna went to British Columbia (Canada) this summer and brought me back some Maple Honey from Chilliwack River Valley, British Columbia. I've been to British Columbia before but had no idea where Chilliwack was and had to look it up on a map. It is in the Fraser river valley and very close to the US border. It is mostly an agricultural community- and as you may know, bees are an important part of most agricultural operations so I'm not surprised that there is a honey industry there as well. In addition to agriculture, though, there also have manufacturing, food processing and tourism industries in the area- and up until 1999 a Canadian army base.

The Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey LTD has a very nice website (just google it and it is the first thing that pops up). It has been in operation for 30 years and produces different types of honey and honey products (including beeswax candles). Agnes Coutt is the apiculturist.

Richard and Ronna brought me back Maple Honey. I called Montreal home for many years (the land of Maple trees) and had never heard of Maple Honey. I didn't think Maple trees had flowers that bees could gather anything from. I just assumed that it was honey with maple syrup mixed in. Silly me. According to the website Maple honey is gathered from maple blossoms (Maple trees have blossoms? I feel so stupid) and is generally the first honey that is collected in the spring.

The maple honey is clear, deep orange with a bit of a reddish tinge. It is completely liquid at room temperature and medium thick. It's texture is smooth. It is not too sweet and doesn't have a strong honey taste. What you notice most is the texture, which is very smooth. The after taste, though is subtle, but rather distinct; It tastes a little like homemade lollipops. This honey would be perfect for tea or baking because I don't think it would change the taste of things much, but would add a substantial dose of honey sweetness.

The Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey operation is visitor friendly. They have a store and can be found at 43476 Adams Road, Chilliwack, B.C., Canada V2R 4L1 (Phone: (604) 823-7400; Fax: (604) 823-7401; Toll Free: 1-888-361-2200; E-mail:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Katiramona Honey, New Caledonia

I've never been to New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie) but my cousin Céline (merci Céline!) lives there and sent me this honey.

As per Wikipedia (my usual source) in 1774 Captain James Cook named the place New Caledonia because the rugged shoreline reminded him of Scotland. New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific and is made up of a main island (Grande Terre) surrounded by smaller (groups of) islands (the Loyalty islands, the Belep archipelago, Île des Pins, the Chesterfield islands, and the Matthew and Hunter islands). Grande Terre is by far the largest island, is mountainous and houses the capital, Nouméa, where my cousin lives.

These volcanic islands have been inhabited since at least 1500 BC. Europeans came with Captain Cook in the late 1700s and brought with them smallpox, measles, dysentery, influenza, syphilis, and leprosy. Whaling and the sandalwood trade brought more foreigners. The indigenous people (the Kanak, known now as the Melanesians) were subjected to slavery and transported to sugarcane plantations in Figi. Not surprisingly, there were tensions between the Melanesians and foreigners.

In 1853 France seized the islands and made them a French possession, populating them with convicted felons from 1864 to 1922, after which free French settlers and Asian contract workers arrived. The numbers of Melanesians declined throughout these periods, mostly related to foreign-introduced disease and an apartheid-like system called Code de l'Indigénat which imposed severe restrictions on their livelihood, freedom of movement and land ownership. A Kanak independence movement was established in 1988 (the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak Socialiste) with a goal of establishing an independent state (Kanaky). After a bloody hostage taking, an accord was signed in 1988 giving Melanesians local citizenship and other rights. The current status of New Caledonia is between one of an independent country and an Overseas department of France. According to the more recent Nouméa Accord (1998) the Territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence after 2014.

New Caledonia has a tropical climate and has two seasons: a dry, cool season (April-November) and a wet, warm (December-March) season. Given its varied soil content, temperature, and climate conditions, it has unique (and endangered) flora and fauna.

According to '' in 2006 New Caledonia had 150 beekeepers and 2100 hives. As far as I can tell, Katiramona is an wild area of Grande Terre that is known for its petroglyphs. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about the honey sources for the region. All the label of the honey I have says is that: M. Burguiere is the apiculturist; it is Katiramona honey; and produced in New Caledonia.

Katiramona honey is clear and orange-golden, with a runny texture. A toothpick will sink in it. It has a deep, mellow taste with an undertone of molasses. The final taste has a whisper of black licorice, although this is somewhat subtle. Very interesting. I think this honey would be great on toasted, buttered, white bread so that you could enjoy its unusual flavor. It might alter the taste of tea, but in some herbal teas it might add a molasses/licorice flavor that might be interesting. It is great, just by itself(!)

I can't imagine that it is available outside of New Caledonia, but given its unique flavor, it might be worth the trip...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ulmo Tree Honey, Temuco, Chile

I didn't get this honey in Chile. I got it at TJMaxx in Brookline. Sometimes you find the most unexpected things at TJMaxx. I've been pleasantly surprised at how often they carry unusual honeys from different parts of the world. How did TJMaxx come to sell Ulmo tree honey from Chile? I'll never know, but I bet there is a story there.

This honey comes in a cute rounded jar, with a pretty art deco label. It also has a little pamphlet rubber-banded around the lid that gives information about it. The pamphlet states that this honey came from the Araucania region (700 km south of Santiago). The Araucania region is home to 'native forests and pristine streams.' A quick look at Wikipedia and I find that Araucania is one of 15 administrative divisions in Chile and contains two provinces: Malleco and Cautin. A lot of the region is protected national parkland containing coigüe, raulí, tepa, and bay, cypress and monkey puzzle trees (and Ulmo trees). The region is also home to the native Mapuche people, who harvested this honey.

The Ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) is indigenous to Argentina and Chile, and its natural habitat runs along the Andes Range (although the wiki site says that it also happily grows in Scotland). Its flowers (which look to me like simple white rose flowers but which are described as camellia-like flowers on another site) produce an aromatic nectar that makes for a good honey. The Ulmo tree is threatened by logging, so honey production may support an alternative, sustainable forestry option.

Ulmo tree honey looks like lemon curd. It is milky-cloudy yellow at room temperature. It is very thick (a toothpick easily stands up in it forever). It isn't grainy but has a texture to it, as if there were very, very fine particles in it. At first taste, the texture is most apparent and then there is a burst of floral perfume that is quite incredible with a minty glow to it. The final taste is one of a minty residue. Wow, what a great honey! My first thought is that it is too good for baking or tea, but then I think maybe it would work in an herbal tea that isn't too overpowering (camomile, for instance). I could eat it just out of the jar, but in large quantities it may lose the subtleties of its complex flavor. It would also work on plain bread. I'll say it again: Wow, what a great honey!

I can't say if it will ever be at TJMaxx again. I think I saw it there only once. But it is produced by Chilean Gourmet and they have a website:
It looks like WholeFoods supermarkets may carry some of their products in the US.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Specialty Pure Honey, Kitwe, Zambia

This honey comes from Zambia. My friend Lauren traveled to Africa this summer and brought it back. The label states it is distributed by Specialty Foods LTD out of Kitwe. Specialty Foods is a private sector honey buyer that processes, packs and distributes honey to wholesalers and large supermarkets.

An online search ( that most honey production in Zambia occurs in rural, farm areas in the Northwestern Province, and that the honey sources of most Zambian honey are woodlands and forests, notably Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Isoberlinia. Given this link between forests and honey, beekeeping is thought to promote incentives for sustainable forestry. Deforestation is a major threat to honey production.

Honey production was noted as early as the 1850s in Zambia in David Livingstone's journals (of 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?' fame). He described traditional log and bark hives, which are suspended from branches. These are being replaced by more efficient types of hives (e.g. Kenyan top bar hives, which resemble the hive boxes that I'm familiar with). Mud hives are also used. Given how and where honey is collected in Zambia, it is considered to be organic.

Honey, prior to being commercially traded, was mostly used to brew a honey-beer called mbote (which remains a popular drink).

One thing I learned, and never knew before, is that apart from honey bees (the indigenous African honey bee in the case of Zambia) there is another insect known as a 'stingless bee' that also produces a honey-like substance. This is generally not exported, though.

This Zambian honey is a warm, dark, amber color. It is clear and has a runny consistency. It is not too sweet with an incredibly interesting, complicated smoky flavor. The final taste is medium robust with smoky undertones. What a great honey! I think it might be nice on buttered bread or in plain yoghurt. It might change the taste of tea a little too much, unless it was a smoky tea.

I suspect it may be hard to find except in Zambia.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jahan Natural Honey, Iran

The Jahan Natural honey that I have was a gift from my mother-in-law who lives in Montreal. It is imported to Montreal by Jahan, and apart from the label stating that it is natural honey and a product of Iran, I have no other information about it. A quick google search to see if I could find out more came up empty. So, I don't know what the flower source is, the precise region, or anything else.

Iran is a pretty big country (relative to most European countries)- a little larger than Alaska- and has a very diverse geography and climate, ranging from rain forests in the north, deserts in the east, mountains in the west, and seas to the south. Climate ranges from subtropical to arid; You can't get more of a range than that! So it is hard to narrow down where honey is produced; It could be everywhere with quite different types of honey from each region.

I'm an oil brat and spent my middle school years in Ahwaz, so I'm vaguely familiar with the western, desert part of the country, but didn't travel much at that age. I was surprised by how different the regions of Iran are when it comes to climate and terrain.

It goes without saying that Iran has an incredible history and culture, with some cities dating back to 7000 BC. There was no information, however, on Wikipedia (my trusted source) about honey regions, honey sources or, actually, anything at all about honey. The closest I got was finding a list of honey exporters when I did a google search. In summary, then, I know that Iran produces honey (at that is about all).

The Jahan honey is a deep amber color- almost burnt orange. It is thick with no crystals (a toothpick with stand upright in it). Great, smooth texture with weight. Perfect for drizzling over plain yoghurt (and if I remember rightly, yoghurt honey is an Iranian treat). It has a robust sweet honey taste; A deep nutty taste in the beginning, followed by a smooth honey taste, and a lingering final taste that is a little floral. This honey would be perfect on hot, buttered toast, or in tea.

If you know anything about Iranian honey, I'd like to hear from you! In the meantime, you can pick up some Jahan Natural Honey in (all places) Montreal, Canada.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Clover Honey, Ferme Léonard, Richmond, Quebec

We don't live too far from Québec and visit regularly to see family. As a result I have a lot of local Québec honey, mostly picked up in supermarkets (Provigo, IGA) in Montréal. This honey, though, is a an exception in that it was bought near where it was produced. It is a honey from Richmond, Québec, in the heart of the Eastern Townships close to where my in-laws have a cottage on Lake Memphremagog.

According to Wikipedia (my knowledgeable source on all things eclectic), Richmond is one of the earliest settlements in the Eastern Townships (1798). In the 1800s Richmond (named after Charles Lennox the 4th Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and Governor General of Upper Canada (1818-1819)) had a bit of a boon related to expansion of the railroads; it was an important railway junction between Montreal and Portland, Maine. However, as the railroads declined, so did Richmond. Today it has a population of about 3,000, and among them are apiculturists who produce honey at Ferme Léonard.

This clover honey (miel de trèfle) is a non-pasteurized (natural) honey. As you may know, pasteurized honey is high-heated to kill pathogens, whereas non-pasteurized honey is not. Some claim that taste is negatively affected by pasteurization and that it also reduces the medicinal benefits of honey. I don't have an opinion either way.

Ferme Léonard's honey is a very light, clear yellow honey. At room temperature some of it crystalizes in little round balls that make larger clumps. These are crunchy, granular and very sweet. The liquid honey is delicate and runny. It has a clear taste of honey with no other flavor, and a sweeter final taste.

This is a good, multipurpose, table honey. Good in tea and in baking (and maybe plain yogurt). It won't change the taste of anything much but will give a good honey sweetness. It probably isn't that interesting on bread, though.

If you are near Richmond, Québec you might like to drop by and visit Ferme Léonard. It is at 402 chemin Vallée, Richmond, Québec.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eswatini Swazi Kitchen (Heavenly) Honey, Swaziland

I've never been to Swaziland, but my friend Lauren has and she recently brought me back some local honey. According to Wikipedia, Swaziland is a small, landlocked kingdom (roughly the size of New Jersey) in Southern Africa surrounded to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. After the Anglo Boer war (1902) Britain made Swaziland a protectorate under its control, and it wasn't until 1968 that Swaziland gained its independence.

There is evidence that Swaziland has been inhabited by humans (or our ancestors) since the early Stone Age (200,000 years ago). Descendants of Bantu tribes people (known as the Swazis) make up most of the current population. Many of these are subsistence farmers and herders, although there are also significant industries in forestry, mining and manufacturing (textiles and sugar processing) in the country.

For such a small place the geography is quite diverse. There are mountains along the Mozambican eastern border and rain forests in the northwest. Climate and terrain can be roughly grouped by altitude above sea level with the country divided into Highveld (altitude of 1200 meters), Middleveld (altitude of 750 meters) and Lowveld (altitude of 250 meters). Rainfall is highest and temperatures are coolest in the Highveld regions; the Lowveld areas are the driest (and hottest) and this is where you find the thorn trees and grasslands.

It is hard to say what flower source the Swaziland bees used to make this honey; the label doesn't say. Although it does give an address in Manzini, the principal commercial and industrial city, which is found in the Middleveld. It also says that the honey is produced by the Eswatini Swazi Kitchen (ESK) and that proceeds from the honey support rural beekeepers across Swaziland.

I did an online search for the Eswatini Swazi Kitchen and found that they also make jams and chutneys, among other things. Processing honey is a relatively new addition to their kitchen that was supported by Missionary Development Funds from the Salesian Community in Swaziland (an Irish mission organization), to the Manzini Youth Care, an organization that promotes income generation projects. If you're interested I found an article describing it:

Another search to identify honey flower sources in Swaziland suggests that major sources of honey in the country include acacia, African Red Beech, Forest Ironplum, and Sagewood, among others. I have never heard of most of the sources and suspect that this honey may be quite different depending on the season and the batch.

Needless to say, given the mystery of the flower source and the exotic list of potential sources, I was eager to try this honey. It has a rich, dark amber color. And even at warm temperatures it is slightly crystalized, giving it a crunchy texture. It is sweet, but not too sweet and has a robust, and unexpected tangy flavor- a little like black tea. The after taste is smoky, again like a mild Lapsang Souchong tea. Very unusual and tasty. I like this honey. I think it would be very nice on nutty bread or in hot cereal, but probably not so good in tea, as it would change the flavor too much.

I understand from a website that ESK products are sold to customers in France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria (Oxfam), U.K. and Sweden. So you may be able to find this honey outside of Swaziland. If not, the label gives their email address as:, so you might be able get some directly.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thyme Honey from the Balos Lagoon, Crete

On the North-Western side of Crete is the Gramvousa Peninsula, a rocky, dry bit of land that has a dusty (but passable) road that ends at the northern tip of it, surprisingly at a parking lot with a cantena. This, the only road, hugs the Eastern coastline, and the views of both the mountainous interior (Mount Geroskinos) and the deep blue sea, are spectacular. Along the bumpy way you may also encounter goats and see colorful boxes arranged in groups among the mountain herbs. These boxes are beehives; Anastasios Stathakis' beehives. Mr. Stathakis and his family harvest and produce honey from this peninsula, which has an abundance of wild thyme. You can buy his honey at the cantena. In fact the photo of Creten honey on this blog is of Mr. Stathakis' honey.

The label on the honey says "Honey from Thyme from Balos Lagoon." The reason for this is that the only real attraction to make the trip to the end of the Gramvousa Peninsula (buying honey aside) is to hike across and down Mt Geroskinos, single file, to the west side of the peninsula, where you'll find the spectacular, and visually unexpected Balos Lagoon. Imagine a brown and gray landscape with fragrant herbs underfoot, and the sun beating down. The sound of cicadas fills the air, and now and again goat bells break in. You trudge along, following a well worn path. The scenery is much the same for some time. Then you crest a sandy cliff and see a lagoon with brilliant gradations of azure and turquoise far below you, and a beach with the whitest sand. The contrast between the neutral colors of the mountain and the brilliant colors of the sea are breath-taking. And from your vantage point, high on the cliff (there is still a 30 minute hike in front of you to get to the lagoon), you can see past the lagoon to islands off shore and then to the deeper, black-blue waters of the Mediterranean. And to think that in the midst of all this, the bees of the peninsula are busily make honey, and Mr. Stathakis (bless his heart) harvests it.

Mr. Stathakis' honey is a warm, golden color (dare I say honey-colored?). It has nearly no aroma, just a slight smell of sweetness. It is a thin honey that runs easily. It has a smooth and very sweet taste with just a whisper of something herbal, something subtly smokey. Its final taste is delicate, uncomplicated and fleeting. I would not categorize this honey as odd- it tastes like what you expect honey to taste like; The aromatic herbal undertones are subtle and linger only briefly.

I like this honey but was expecting something more dramatic- a fragrant blast of thyme, for instance. After the initial let down, however, I do appreciate the delicate flavor. Although I haven't yet tried it in tea, I suspect it would work well. It wouldn't be my first choice to spread on buttered bread, though,- unless the bread was really nutty, in which case the honey might compliment it nicely without competing with the nuttiness.

Jars of 450 grams are 6 Euros, and those of 900 grams are 12 Euros, available at the cantena.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Miel de Caféier (Coffee Honey), L'ile de la Réunion

One of the more unusual honeys I have in my collection is a coffee honey (miel de caféier) that I got in Gourdon, France. It isn't local to Gourdon but comes from l'Ile de la Réunion (or La Réunion). This island is formally known as Bourbon Island (but this was a very long time ago). According to Wikipedia, l'Ile de la Réunion is a smallish (slightly smaller than Rhode Island) French, volcanic island that is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It was first named by the Portuguese in the 1500s- Bourbon Island- (at which time is was uninhabited) and then colonized by France in 1665. It became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France in 1946.* It has a tropical climate much like Hawaii's, with similar crops (sugar cane, pineapple, etc.); Coffee was introduced in the 1800s and became an important crop, although not its most important (that would be sugar cane).

I had never heard of coffee honey before I bought it in Gourdon. It is one of the darkest honeys I've ever seen, dark like molasses. Or, maybe dark like coffee. It has a distinctive aroma that is not honey-like at all. It smells a little like molasses. It tastes like honey, though, but has a rich, deep, warm brown kind of taste (if you know what warm brown tastes like). It isn't too sweet, and has a smooth rich honey 'final' taste. What I mean by 'final' taste is that when you swallow, the taste- presumably related to the location of different taste receptors- can change. Sour and bitter receptors are at the back of the tongue, so a 'tangy' honey might have a very different 'final' taste as you swallow it than when you first put it in your mouth. For some honeys the final taste is very fragile and transient. This honey has a very robust final taste.

I like this honey. It is very nice on toasted, buttered, thickly-sliced German bread (spread thick- with the melting butter and honey blending together). It is less nice in tea; it changes the taste of the tea too much. I haven't tried it in baking, but I expect it might be good in whole grain bread. It also might be a good substitute for molasses or brown sugar (on oatmeal or in thick, plain yoghurt, for instance).

I can't say for certain if they still sell this honey in Gourdon, France; I bought it a few years ago, but I expect they do. Gourdon is a beautiful village (one of the 'most beautiful villages of Provence') and worth a visit if you are in the area, even if they don't. It is perched on a rocky cliff and has a spectacular view of the surrounding area. It also has interesting and unique craft shops (in addition to honey I found some very high quality soap and lavender oil there). Apart from this coffee honey, shops in Gourdon also sell honey (both local and from other areas) that have different flower sources. If you are a honey junkie, you've probably already heard of Gourdon.

*a piece of trivia is that given its time zone Ile de la Réunion was also the first region in the world where the euro became legal tender.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Honey?

I wasn't always into honey. It happened by accident. I was on vacation in France, in the Chateau Cheverny gift shop, actually. There was a display of local honeys and I bought one: miel toutes fleurs (wild flower honey). When I got home I tried it- Wow, what a honey. Fragrant, sweet, complicated. Like no honey I had ever had before. When the jar was done it attained mythical proportions in my household. 'Remember that miel toutes fleurs?' and we'd all pause and remember how good it was. Almost too good to spread on bread or put in tea (almost).

It was after that that I started paying attention to honey. Buying local honey from farmer's markets and seeking out odd honeys from different countries. Who knew there were so many kinds of honey? And that the taste could be so different one from the other? Honey became a standard souvenir if I visited anywhere, and if anyone asked if I wanted anything from 'X' country, I'd ask for honey (it really is a good souvenir- relatively cheap, small and non-perishable- and most places have locally produced honey).

So, fast forward a few years, and here I am with a rather large, bordering on unhealthy, collection of honey. What to do with it all? I do use it- on bread, in tea, in recipes. But why keep it to myself? There might be other honey wackos (pardon, aficionados) out there who might be interested in reviews of honey from around the world- so for anyone out there who is at all interested, I'll rate, review and generally go on about the honey in my life.