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Friday, August 12, 2016

Raw Jungle Honey, Oaxaca, Mexico (Bidoo Collective)

I bought this raw Jungle honey from Follow The Honey, a honey specialty store in Cambridge, MA. This honey is from the jungles of Oaxaca, Mexico, and is the result of efforts of the BIDOO Collective, an organization that provides incentives to rural farmers and beekeepers to conserve natural habitats.

Oaxaca state, Mexico
Oaxaca (pronounced waˈhaka), a state in Mexico comprised of seven regions, is located in the south of Mexico. As a state it was established in 1824 and currently has a population of about 4 million. Its capital is Oaxaca City and it is home to a third of Mexico’s indigenous people who are from a number of different indigenous groups, with the Zapotecs and Mixtecs accounting for about 50%. 

It is an area rich in history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to 11,000 BC. The ancient city of Monte Alban (which flourished from 500 BC to 750 AD) and the religious center of Mitla, classified in 2010 as a UNESCO world heritage site, are both found in Oaxaca. 

Oaxaca mountains
Oaxaca has one of the most rugged terrains in Mexico with several mountain chains (Sierra Madre del Sur, Sierra Madre de Oaxaca and Sierra Atravesada) converging on each other, creating a series of narrow and not-so-narrow valleys between them. Many people live in isolated communities as a result. 

Climate varies with altitude. While it is within the tropical latitudes regions range from being hot and humid  to being temperate. It is thought to have the greatest bio-diversity in Mexico, with >8,000 species of flora and >4,500 species of fauna.

Its economy is based primarily on agriculture, even though only 9% of the land is suitable due to its mountainous terrain, mining and tourism. Principal crops include grains, cocoa, peanuts, mango, corn, sugar cane, coffee, sesame seed, and pineapple. 

Oaxaca rainforest
Beekeeping has been practiced in Mexico for thousands of years-and in Oaxaca for just as long. The ancient Mayans harvested wild honey from log nests and, later, wooden hives were used to collect it. It is used as a sweetener, an antibiotic and to make a fermented drink, “balche,” similar to mead. In fact, a surviving Maya book, The Madrid Codex, is all about bees and beekeeping, showing how important beekeeping was. Up until about 50 years ago, the stingless melliponine bee (Apidae melliponinaea native of the tropical forests of the Yucatan peninsula was the major honey maker. However when Africanized bees were introduced they soon took over and honey production is now principally from these bees. 

The jungles of Oaxaca are rich in floral diversity, including floral sources from mango, lime, lemon, avocado, coffee, sesame, almond, orchid, and wild fennel, to name a few. These are reflected in the region’s honey. If you are interested in the the floral diversity of Oaxaca honey, Ramirez-Arriga et al., have made a study of it using pollen analysis to identify the sources of Oaxaca honey.

Raw Jungle honey, Oaxaca, Mexico

My honey, which is organic and free of any pesticides or antibiotics, is a mellow, brown/mustard opaque color. It has crystallized a bit since I got it and is on the thick side. The crystals give it an very interesting texture, more like a puree than a crunchy or grainy texture. The taste is really unusual. Sweet potato, pineapple and cooked plums come through, with a slightly minty menthol aftertaste. It also have a bit of a final kick with a clove flavor. This honey is too unusual and interesting to bake with. It might be best eaten it right out of the jar, with a mild, creamy cheese, or on thick, plain yogurt. If you have no plans to visit Oaxaca anytime soon, but want a taste of this, Follow the Honey sells it online.

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