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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Orange Blossom Honey, Totana, Murcia, Spain

This orange blossom honey comes from Totana, a town near the southeast coast of Spain, in the Murcia province. Totana is a small (about 20,000 inhabitants), historic town known for its pottery (which are produced using traditional kilns that date from Moorish times), and its spectacular surrounding countryside, among other things.

It is nestled in the Guadalentin valley, and close to the Sierra Espuña regional park. It looks absolutely lovely. If you are looking for a picturesque spot to vacation that offers great hiking, cycling and bird watching, you might want to check the region out. If you are a birder, in particular, you might look into it. They seem to have a very active birding community:

The Guadalentin valley is an agricultural region (producing grapes, almonds, and squash, among other things) with a mild Mediterranean climate. Of interest, I came across a local news item describing how more police and resources were being deployed in an effort to prevent table grape harvest theft in the area. Imagine being in a place where table grape harvest theft made front page news(!) It has got to be beautiful. I picture rolling hills of grape vines against a backdrop of majestic mountains, with mountain breezes ruffling wildflowers growing in roadside ditches and the buzz of cicadas in the air. So much more romantic than car theft, which brings to my mind images of urban, concrete jungles with graffiti sprayed walls and heavy air full of back alley garbage smell- don't you think? But maybe I'm letting my imagination run away with me. For anyone interested in following the efforts to crack down on table grape harvest crime:

Back to my honey: it is packaged and marketed by Coato, an agricultural cooperative. They were founded in 1979 by 65 paprika pepper producers but have since expanded to deal in olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and honey, among other things. The marketing of honey for them is relatively new, staring in the late 1990s when ten beekeepers in the area approached them to sell their product in bulk. This honey operation has also expanded and now Coato packages and markets about 50% of the honey from the Murcia region. They deal in a variety of different honeys- including: rosemary, wildflower, eucalyptus, and orange blossom. You can buy their products directly from them on their website:

Orange blossom honey, not surprisingly, comes from orange blossoms of the sweet orange tree (Citrus sinensis). The sweet orange should not be confused with the bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), which is not very tasty. Did you know that orange trees are the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world? At least according to Wiki, they are. Orange trees, which were first cultivated in China in about 2500 BCE, are now widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates. In 2008 it was estimated that nearly 70 million tons of oranges were grown worldwide. In the US the principal growers are in Florida and California. In the rest of the world, Brazil is a big player. Did you know that the orange fruit is a type of a berry, called a hesperidium? Now you can amaze your friends with all of your orange trivia.

The orange blossom honey I have is thin, amber colored and clear. It takes a little effort and a lot of twirling to get enough on a toothpick to sample. It has an uncomplicated floral taste from beginning to end, with a slightly heightened final sweet note. The floral taste is a little hard to describe. Have you ever smelled orange blossoms? That is what it tastes like, but a little more subtle. This honey is perfect for baking. If you want honey sweetness with a lovely floral undertone, this is a good choice.

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