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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rosemary Honey (Miel de Romarin), Col de Pointu, Bonnieux, France

Rosemary honey is from rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, a woody, perennial herb with fragrant needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers. According to Wiki, it is native to the Mediterranean region, and the name 'rosemary' comes from Latin. It translates as "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea", because it is very drought resistant, needing only the humidity carried by the sea breeze as a water source to sustain itself.


Rosemary is used both dried and fresh is cooking, and it is reported to have some medicinal qualities especially related to treating gout, and improving memory. Of note, a miraculous balm containing rosemary (balm of Fierabras) is described in Don Quixote, and given its association with memory, rosemary is used as a symbol of remembrance; it is often depicted on war commemorations, worn on Remembrance Day in Australia, and, in funerals, it is thrown into graves to remember the dead. Also according to Wiki, in the Middle Ages, rosemary was used in wedding ceremonies as symbols of love and loyalty. The bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and guests would wear sprigs of rosemary, and newlyweds would plant rosemary on their wedding day. If the plant grew it predicted a strong marriage and family.

Rosemary was also believed to repeal witches if planted in the garden, and this association between witches and rosemary then morphed into being a symbol that women ruled the household in homes where rosemary grew. There are accounts of men in the 16th century ripping up rosemary to show that they and not their wives ruled their households.

Bonnieux, France

Bonnieux, France, where this honey was produced is a beautiful, fortified village that dates from 972 AD,  nestled at the top of the Luberon hills, in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region in the southeast of France. It is east of Avignon and north of Aix en Provence. It sits opposite of Mont Ventoux and has a commanding view of the valley.

If you make your way up through the village, there is a stone staircase, and at the top is the 12th century village church (and a small park, apparently, that is ideal for a picnic). The views, if the tourism information is to be believed, are glorious.

Stone Stairs leading to the 12th Century Church

Bonnieux also also known for its bread museum, the Musée de la Boulangerie. It describes all there is to know about making artisan bread. Considering how well bread and honey go together, if you are in the area, it may be well worth a visit, after which you can take some Bonnieux honey and artisan bread, and picnic in the park next to the hill top church, while appreciating how wonderful it is to be alive in this small slice of heaven.

La Mas des Abeilles produced the rosemary honey that I have. It is located on the summet of the Luberon, near Bonnieux, and it is a family business. They select, package and export honey and honey products from the area, and have been doing so for over 30 years. They take great pride in their honey. It is produced in the artisanal fashion: harvested using the blowing method ('soufflage' in French), and cold extracted to retain the best honey flavor. No preservatives or anything artificial.

The rosemary honey I have has started to crystallize but it still has a top layer of liquid honey. it is a mellow golden, light amber color. It is a thin, runny honey but with some body. It is smooth, with an herby, slightly bitter flavor from beginning to end, and then there is a small burst of sweetness. If you've ever crushed a sprig of rosemary, it tastes like a sweet and subtle version of the smell. I associate rosemary with summer and this honey embodies hot summers for me.

Rosemary (Romarin) Honey

It isn't a complicated honey in that the flavor or tones change from beginning to end, but it is very high quality honey with a distinct flavor. I think it would be a good choice in cooking, especially if rosemary is in the recipe, and it would be nice in herbal tea or on toast.

Le Mas des Abeilles has a lovely website, if you are interested in this rosemary honey or other products they sell.

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