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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.

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