Sunday, March 25, 2007

Italian Honey

Raffaella loves honey. It is part of her daily routine. In this light she thinks of herself as a bear. During our first years in the US we suffered a bit, trying honey from different stores and not finding that natural product she loves so much. In Italy there are numerous types of honey. Her love for honey comes from her mother. This passion grew as she traveled to Friuli with her father and she tells of a gentile old lady who runs a store that sells only honey. This individual knew the right places in the forests of Friuli to find wild honeys of every type.

Entering the store the perfume of numerous flowers dominate the air. One would think there are fresh cut flowers every day or that the store had installed one of those air fresheners with different smells every 30 seconds. Quickly it becomes evident that this is not a marketing ploy. The perfume is from the various honeys that the store offers to the fortunate client. Yes, there are honeys with different flavors. The honey takes on flavor of the flowers in the area. There are sweet honeys, mild honeys, honeys with salts and minerals and honeys with a slightly bitter taste.

Brie with Honey Mustard and Walnuts in Filo

Honey has been cultivated since the Egyptian Empire. The Egyptians were the first to domesticate bees for a controlled production and quality. The Greeks later improved the process creating a wide variety of naturally flavored honeys. Honey was widely used by the Greeks as a sweetener for the bitter Greek wines. The Romans used honey in many desserts and as a preservative for fruits. Still today some of the original uses of honey from the Roman Empire are part of Italian cooking. Some of these include the Honey Cake and Honeyed Fruit. My favorite is the Almonds preserved in Honey.

Some of the Honeys available are:

Thousand Flowers (Millefiori) – The most widely consumed honey in Italy. It is red gold in color, simply sweet with a persistent bouquet of wild flowers. This honey will crystallize within two weeks of when it is sealed. If you find it still liquid this usually means it has been through some industrial process.

Chestnut (Castagno) – A dark colored honey with red tones. It has a slightly bitter taste with hints of citrus. It is rich in Salt and Minerals, Iron dominates, and is suggested for the elderly, those recovering from illness and athletes.

Acacia (Acacia) – A clear, hay colored honey, delicate in flavor, and high in glucose. This honey is different than any other because it will not crystallize.

Sunflower (Girasole) – Sunflower honey is one of the favorites of central Italy. Just as the flowers from which the pollen is gathered the honey has a bright yellow color. The flavor has hints of herbs that tend to diminish as the honey crystallizes.

There are also other types of honey available. Many doctors will include a honey regime when curing respiratory diseases. For the fortunate traveler pick up some of the Almonds preserved in honey or one of the honeys produced locally. They are a fantastic compliment for sharp or aged cheeses.


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Blogger a.c.t. said...

Hi David!
I love honey too. I've tried to find out about the benefits of honey but have read conflicting stories about whether it is good for you. Is it really better than sugar?

9:54 AM

Blogger Dianne said...

Hi David

Mmmmmmmm! I love honey and have started to substitute honey for sugar. Wherever I go, I buy honey, I'm getting quite a collection


12:55 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

ACT Honey is widely used in various parts of Italy to strengthen one's health or cure this or that illness. Today our children suffer from an ever expanding list of allergies some of which include honey or papa reale. Is it good for you? I always fall back on, if we haven't stopped using it in 5000 years it probably does no harm.

Dianne I think that is a wise choice. Somehow I prefer when the producer is mother nature instead of a multinational corp.

6:35 AM


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