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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lime Tree Honey, Yemen

The lime tree honey that I have comes courtesy of my friend Ben who got it in Kuwait during his deployment last year (thanks Ben!). It is honey from Yemen but distributed by Alshifa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (as far as I can tell). Alshifa has a lovely website but, being in Arabic, I'm going mostly on instinct. Apart from honey- and they distribute quite a few kinds- Alshifa also deals in oils (e.g. almond oil), soaps and dates, among other items. They have a nicely done video showcasing their business on the website and also have a commercial about their honey on youtube.

Citrus was introduced into southern Yemen from Egypt, Iraq and Italy- mostly sweet orange trees, but also mandarin, clementine, grapefruit, lemon and lime. The lime is Balady lime (Citrus aurantifolia) and the area it is cultivated in is the Say'un-Tarim area of Wadi Hadramawt, but there are also Balady lime trees in the coastal Zinjibar-Gaar area.

Common lime, Citrus aurantifolia
 I wasn't familiar with the fact that there are different types of limes but soon discovered that there are. (and why wouldn't there be?) If you are interested, there is a website dedicated to citrus information and it has a nice section on limes. Of note, while many are called limes and have similar culinary qualities, only a few are true limes. The common lime (also known as Mexican or Key lime) is a true lime and is what I think of when I think of limes. Of note, some limes are actually lemons (e.g. Mandarin lime). Balady (also spelled Beladi) limes, also known as Egyptian Rashidy limes, are a type of common lime.

Limes are extremely sensitive to frost and so only thrive in subtropical or tropical climates. The color of limes changes from dark green (immature) to a yellowish green (medium mature) to yellow (fully mature), at which point the fruit drops from the tree. Limes, however, are collected when they are green. Limes are apparently juiciest and have the best flavor when they are only medium ripe and collecting them when green also sets them apart from lemons.
Yemen, showing Say'un in the center

Yemen is found on the Arabian peninsula, in the southwestern corner.  In 1990 North and South Yemen united to form the Republic of Yemen. The area of Hadramawt is best known for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shebam Hadhramawt (the capital of the Hadramawt Kingdom and home to the mud-made highrises), Tarim, an important center for Islamic learning, and Seyoun, a city of Kathiri palaces. While honey production doesn't figure largely on the sites showcasing the many attractions of the area, the area is known for its quality honey. Janie Baxer posted a photo of hives in Wadi Haramawt.

Janie Baxter's photo of hives in Wadi Haramawt next to what looks like a lime grove

The lime honey I have is a clear, golden, honey color with a medium-thin consistency. There are no particulates in it at all. It has a smooth, somewhat bitter flavor with a taste of lime from beginning to end. It is unusual and delicious! The flavor is true throughout with the bitterness gaining some strength at the end.

Alshifa Lime Tree Honey

I think this honey would be particularly good in a strong black tea, on hot, buttered scones or toast, or in hot cereal. It may be too strong for a more delicate herbal tea. I'm not sure where you can find this honey (other than in Kuwait). If you understand Arabic, you may be able to order it online from the Alshifa site.


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