THE FARM’S BEES PRODUCE HONEY
ROSEMARY HONEY AND HEATHER HONEY
Rosemary honey is usually the first to be harvested at the end of April and has a distinctive and persistent aroma. Honey from Heather can often be found in the same honeycomb as it blooms at the same time as rosemary giving the honey a fresh aroma.
WILDFLOWER HONEY AND THISTLE HONEY
Wildflower honey varies from yellow to reddish in color depending on the nectar of the different flowers that bloom during the season. The blue thistle flowers start blooming around mid-March through the end of May, gifting us with Thistle honey with hints of cinnamon. Towards the end of the fall, the honey begins to crystalize and fades in color.
The location of the beehives under large eucalyptus plants give the honey a sweet, but also salty taste. Eucalyptus honey crystallizes quickly.
At the beginning of June, beehives are moved to the eastern hills of the island, where gorgeous chestnut trees are swarmed during the blooming season, bringing them to produce a slightly bitter Chestnut honey with a strong scent. This honey has a delayed crystallization, caused by a high level of fructose rather than glucose. Honey connoisseurs love this honey that can be enjoyed when paired with goat cheeses, parmesan, or roasted meats.
STRAWBERRY TREE HONEY
If our seasons escape without strong rains, severe summer droughts, or high winds that cause flowers to fall, we are able to produce a small quantity of Mediterranean Arbutus, or Strawberry tree, honey.
IVY FLOWER HONEY
During the same season, we are able to harvest the very pale Ivy flower honey, which becomes temperamental as it crystallizes in the honeycomb. This makes it hard to harvest, not only for the beekeeper, but is also difficult for the bees themselves who need to dissolve it during their winter hibernation.
Honeydew or Melata honey has an interesting characteristic in that it is produced from sap and not nectar. The melata is a sugary fluid secreted by plants to encourage pollination by insects. It is dark in color, almost black, but tends not to crystallize. Lightly sweet, this honey has a bitter aftertaste, with acidic or salty notes.This honey is popular in Germany and Austria, where it is enjoyed both for breakfast and with savory dishes. Organic Melata honey has a high level of minerals and is appreciated for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, giving it the name “Athlete’s Honey”.
What is organic honey?
Before the Varroa mite arrived in Italy, hives were not treated with chemicals. This parasite attaches itself to the bee’s body to feed and can destroy an entire bee hive. Unfortunately, there are few alternatives to rid bee populations of this parasite which causes damage worldwide. The necessary treatments to fight the Varroa mites are what differentiate conventional and organic bee cultures. In organic practices, only natural substances like oxo or formic acid can be used, while in conventional practices, synthetic chemicals are used. When analyzed, these chemical products can be found in the fat content of beeswax. Often, wax imported from other countries doesn’t follow serious regulations for plant protection. In order for honey to be organic, even the beeswax has to pass certification. Along with other beekeepers on the island, we’ve been experimenting with natural solutions to mites by laying leaves, stems, and flowers of the Inula viscosa plant on top of the honeycomb. The results of these trials have been quite satisfying and have limited the spread of the Varroa parasite. It seems that the pungent, camphor-like scent released by the bees as they rub against the Inula plant, disorients the mites and masks the bees’ pheromones used to identify the hive. Our next challenge will be to use the macerated form of Inula viscosa on our island’s hives.