Local Honey Love: A Global Affair
Let me paint you a kind of romantic, rainy-day picture. Around this time each year, I start to look wistfully out of the window, often with accumulating layers of clothes and blankets, to think up where I might like to visit next. Yes, as Melbourne gets colder and the bees get ready to take a nap, Australian beekeepers start looking further afield—it can be a good time for a holiday if you are lucky enough to have the time to get away. You see, this time last year I was in Europe, soaking up the sunshine and meeting northern hemisphere bees and their keepers. It was such a momentous couple of months for me: I made many friends and peers. I found new ways in apiary. I learnt skills from old-hands. I ate great food, wandered around in the backyards of chalets, drank local wines, and reminded myself that it’s the simple things in life that make one happy. If there is one thing Europeans do well, it’s keeping their cultures alive, with individual localities having their own special delicacies and culinary traditions.
Now, part of this experience was, of course, tasting local honey. You see, not all honey tastes the same—they differ due to location, season and the flora available in the area. Think of it in the way you would a nice wine; different grapes from different areas and climates produce different flavours. It’s the same with honey. Just because you might go to the supermarket and see a number of shelves of generically labelled honey made by mass producers that don’t specify their variety, doesn’t mean there aren’t different kinds with varying tastes. In fact, there is a honey for everyone!
And while honey varieties such as Manuka receive more attention than most, local honeys from all over the world of great interest to me for their various properties. Now, I know a few people travelling at the moment: someone in Greece told me that there are bees buzzing around everywhere over there, as the days get warmer, the spring flowers dot the hillsides and the sun shines across the Aegean. With this in mind, there is a variety made on the Lasithi plains on Greece’s largest island, Crete, loved for its herby, thyme notes. There are hints of blackcurrant and cherries in Paris’s honey. Californian honey tastes of orange blossom. Sage honey from Oregon has a light spice. Manuka from New Zealand and Australia is strong and medicinal. Sourwood honey from the Appalachian Mountains is buttery, like caramel. Carob honey from Sicily is nutty and perfect with aged cheese. The list goes on! These unique characteristics are just another great reason to get on the local honey train, and find your own favourite varieties, from Australia and overseas.