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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.

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