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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...

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