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Monday, October 1, 2012

Miel de Bruyère Callune (Heather Honey), Anjou, France

"Bruyère Callune" is Calluna vulgaris, or common heather. It is a low growing perennial shrub and is found widely throughout Europe. It thrives in acidic soils and is the dominant plant in heaths and moors. It generally has purplish flowers and blooms in late summer, and is sometimes referred to as Summer heather. White flowers do sometimes occur and these are thought to bring luck. Calluna vulgaris should not be confused with Erica vulgaris, another common heather. Erica vulgaris blooms in Winter/Spring (and is therefore completely different). Think about Scotland (where heather grows abundantly) and imagine 'fragrant hills of purple' and you may picture it. 

According to wiki there are a lot of uses for heather- apart from as a source of food for sheep and deer. It is used to dye wool yellow and to tan leather. It is an ingrediant to add flavoring (before hops) in the brewing of heather beer ( a Middle Ages brew). Of interest, the use of heather as a flavoring for beer is carefully regulated today because the undersides of its leaves may contain a fungus that has hallucinogenic properties. Heather beer must have been a popular beverage in the Middle Ages!

The honey I have is French and comes from the Anjou region, now the department Maine-et-Loire. The label claims that it is heather honey that is collected on the edge of a forest in the heart of Anjou.
Anjou is a beautiful, historic area of France. It has been a county (ruled by a count, circa 880 AD), duchy (ruled by a duke, circa 1360 AD), province, and now is a department. It is centered around the city of Angers and is located in the lower Loire valley of western France.

 Anjou is changed hands many times. The Gauls, Romans, and Franks have all had turns. And Brittany and Normandy seem to have constantly threatened its autonomy. Being under constant threat from its neighbors the area is full of fortified castles and ancient battlefields. Charles the Bald, Robert the Strong, Hugh the Abbot, Odo, Fulk the Red, and Geoffrey Greytunic, all figure prominently in its early history.

It is home to the tombs of Plantagenets Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II at the abbey of Fontevraud, and it has many châteaux: Angers, Saumur, Brissac, Serrant, Le Plessis-Macé, Montsoreau, Le Plessis-Bourré, and Montreuil-Bellay. The National School of Horsemanship (École Nationale d'Équitation), and the tank museum (Musée des Blindés) are also in the region. It is also a major wine growing region. If you are into beautiful countryside, romantic and fortified castles, wine, history, horses or armored vehicles, Anjou may be a good destination choice.

Anjou may also ring a bell because of the Anjou pear. According to wiki, it was all a big mistake. For some reason when the pear was introduced to the US, it was called Anjou but it actually seems to have originated in Belgium. Its original name was Nec Plus Mauris. How did they get from this to Anjou? It is a great mystery.

The miel de buryère callune is a warm, clear, amber color. It is medium thick and very smooth. It has been described as having a gelatinous texture and I can see why. It is not too sweet with a subtle clear herbal flavor that then ends with a slightly bitter woodsy up tone. It would be good in baking (ginger bread), in hot cereal, on toast, but may change the flavor of tea.

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