Thursday, January 5, 2012
Egyptian Wildflower Honey Imported by Marina Import and Export Company
I can't remember where I got this wildflower Egyptian honey. I have a habit of ducking into small, local food shops and buying honey wherever I am, and my experience has been that some odd honeys show up in the oddest places (I've mentioned in the past that TJMaxx is, surprisingly, a good place to find unusual honey). I've never been to Egypt, so I know I didn't get it there. The grocer's price label on the jar says Supermarché Akhavan. The French 'supermarché' suggests I got it in Montreal, where I do go to Middle Eastern supermarkets (they have the best halva, chapati, and fresh feta cheese- as well as Middle Eastern honey).
This honey, apart from saying that it is from Egypt, that it is a wildflower honey, and that it is imported by Marina Import and Export company, doesn't say much else. I checked out whether Marina Import and Export has a website to see if I could find out more, and they do:
Their site states that they "specialize in importing ethnic and non-ethnic food products from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey." I notice they have a few things from Tunisia as well. Mostly they have food: sweets, beverages, nuts, and canned/jarred goods, but they also have water pipes and accessories as well as backgammon boards (the beautiful inlaid ones). They operate out of Scarborough, Ontario- which reinforces my thoughts that this honey was purchased in Canada. Unfortunately, they do not have any details about this honey. In fact, I can't find it on their list of products either, but the label is very much like the one on their molasses so I'm sure I have the right place.
So, I have no details about where in Egypt and what type of wildflowers. With no obvious source of information, I rely on Wiki. What I find is that most rain falls on a tiny strip of the northern coast of Egypt. Is it a fair guess that the flower source is there? According to Wiki, apart from this region, rainfall is scarce and limited to winter, with averages of less than 5mm per year. Add to this fairly intense heat with averages between 80-90°F (with some places getting over 100 °F) except along the coast. I wonder how flowers manage to flower, and if they do, how bees manage to find them without suffering heat exhaustion in any area except this coastal strip. How wrong I am! Another site (http://people.csail.mit.edu/hanna/Egypt/index06.html) states that most of Egyptian wildflowers flourish in the desert: "In the palm groves of the desert oases as in some of the narrow ravines in the eastern desert, ferns and flowers grow in a luxuriant abundance unknown to northern climes. Of these wild flowers the most common are the yellow daisy, the poppy, the iris, the asphodel and the ranunculus." Wouldn't it be great if this was desert wildflower honey? We will never know.
Now back to the honey. It is a nice golden, reddish color that is slightly opaque. It is surprisingly thick. I was expecting runny honey, given the color. Trying to twirl it on a toothpick, it has a feel of taffy. It twirls in a huge glob, and rolls around before it dissolves, like a hard candy. It has a very distinct first taste of tea, very faintly bitter or smoky tea. Very exotic. Tasting it again I think maybe it is faintly like an oak or bark flavor, slightly similar to an aromatic herb- but not so bitter as thyme honey. It is not too sweet and the after flavor is that of clear sweetness with undertones of the tea taste. I think for some this taste may take some getting used to. It is great right out of the jar, and would do well in dark teas, on whole grain breads and in hot cereal. I don't think it would be the best choice for baking or in herbal teas; it has too much of a distinct flavor.