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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fir Honey, Central Greece (Wedderspoon Gold, Malvern, PA)

I got this Greek fir honey from my friend Barbara. It is packaged and distributed by Wedderspoon Organic USA and she got it locally.

Like many honey operations Wedderspoon began as, and still is, a family affair. Catherine and Sebastien Martin created the business to initially bring quality, unpasteurized, raw and organically certified Manuka honey from New Zealand to the Canadian/US markets. Their operation is based in Duncan, Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada), but they have since expanded with offices in the US, and offer other honeys and honey products, mainly across North America. They pride themselves in providing superior products that are BPA free, and certify that their honeys are chemical and pesticide free. You can order their products, which include raw and organic honeys, body care products, candles, lozenges, and honey dippers, on their website. And, for those of you who consume a lot of honey, they offer "super saver deals" for buying by the case...

The label on the fir honey states that forests of central Greece are the source of this fir honey.
Areas of Greece; Central Greece is in blue

When I think of Greece I think of Athens, a sprawling urban metropolis, or the Greek islands with their white washed houses with blue shutters perched on parched hills overlooking the Mediterranean in impossible shades of blue. I don't think of forests. However, I've since learned that 50% of Greece is covered by forests, and fir forests (primarily made up of Abies cephalonica and Abies xborisii-regis) are common in the mountains of central and southern Greece. In addition, Greece has three climate zones: Alpine, Mediterranean and Temperate. The forests of central Greece have an Alpine climate, where winters are harsh, with lots of snow, and summers are cool, with lots of thunderstorms. Of interest, not only do these forests produce fir honey, but they are home to some endangered species, including the brown bear, lynx, roe deer and wild goat. 

The mountains and forests of central Greece
Fir honey, as you may know, is a honeydew rather than a blossom honey. I've mentioned honeydew honeys before (see blog about miel de sapin). You probably are familiar with how honey bees make honey from floral sources- collecting nectar from flowers and then transforming it into honey. In honeydew honeys, honey bees collect, rather than nectar, honeydew, which is a sugary secretion from scale insects, like aphids. These insects live in cracks under the scales of the bark, consume sap and excrete honeydew. Bees then collect and process honeydew to make honey. Honeydew, however, is chemically different from nectar and so honeydew honey is usually darker, more aromatic and has a higher mineral and antioxidant content compared to blossom honey. There are many types of honeydew honeys depending on the sap collecting insect and the source of the sap.

Hives in central Greece
Firs, however, are reported to produce the best quality of honeydew honeys. A fun fact is that honeydew honeys generally do not crystallize, in case you always want to have on hand a liquid honey no matter how long you've had it.

The fir honey I have is very thick-  which makes sense since I understand that honeydew honeys are generally thicker than blossom honeys. It is golden, light yellow and very shiny. There is no problem getting a large twirl on a toothpick. It rolls around on the tongue, has an unusually smooth texture and takes a moment (or two) to dissolve. It has a clean, sweet taste with a hint of molasses and a slight menthol after taste. The flavors gradually move from one to the next. It would be great drizzled on thick plain yogurt (in the Greek tradition), in hot cereal or on whole grain buttered toast. It might also be a good complement to a strong cheese.

Wedderspoon Gold Fir Honey