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Unifloral honey

This name defines honey  varieties whose origin is  connected to a prevalent  botanical species because  they are sufficently  characterized in terms  of organoleptic and  microscopic features.
The production of unifloral  honey varieties is possible for  those species that are very  abundant in enough large  areas. Special bee-keeping  techniques are necessary  to increase production and  increase its pureness.  The following list gives you  a flavour of the main Italian  unifloral honey varieties: 

 

Locust –tree or acacia honey
(Robinia pseudoacacia)

In Italy it is mostly produced  in pre-alpine areas and in  Tuscany but it is produced  also with a good level of  pureness in other regions  (from Veneto to Emilia Romagna, from Abruzzo to  Campania, etc.).

Physical features: generally  liquid, it can become  turbid because of crystals  formation but never gets  completely crystallized.
Colour: very clear, one of the fairest.
Smell: not too intense, not particularly distinctive, slightly floral.
Taste: delicate, slightly reminds of flowers, with a typical vanilla touch.
Usage: table honey, natural sweetening agents replacing traditional white sugar.

 

Citrus fruit honey
(Citrus spp.)

Remarkable quantities  of this honey variety are  produced in the vast  southern and insular  citrus orchards. The most  common variety is mixed  citrus honey and only  rarely single-species honey  (orange, lemon, grapefruit,  tangerine, etc).

Physical features: it crystallizes spontaneously sometimes with a coarse and sandy texture.
Colour: very fair, white when crystallized.
Smell: medium intense, distinctive, floral, fresh, reminds of orange flowers
Taste: very aromatic, deeply floral and fruity.
Usage: is one of the most popular types of table honey because of its floral aroma, it matches perfectly to any sweet foodstuffs.

 

Cardoon honey
(Galactites tomentosa, Carduus spp. e Cirsium spp.)

Mostly produced in Sardinia.

Physical features: spontaneous crystallization some months after the harvest.
Colour: when it is amber-like it is more or less fair with orange hues; more beige oriented with yellow hues when crystallized.
Smell: medium intense, distinctive, with floral and chrysanthemum notes.
Taste: normally sour and sweet, slightly bitter and astringent.
Usage: table honey.

 

Chestnut honey
(Castanea sativa)

It represents one of the most important unifloral type at national level. Large quantities are produced on the Apennines and in the mountain areas of the islands. Not all consumers like it because of its peculiar features: dark, pungent, bitterly tasted. However others love it just because of these same unique features.

Physical features: generally liquid or made of large crystals
Colour: amber like, more or less dark according to the production area.
Smell: very intense, pungent, resinous, foxy
Taste: very intense aroma, tangy at first then bitter according to the origin, tannin like.
Usage: table honey for those who do not like flat and sweet taste, ideal as flavor and taste enhancer.

 

Strawberry tree honey
(Arbutus unedo)

This is an autumn honey  variety usually produced  after rainy summers, mostly  in Sardinia and in central  parts of Italy, typical of  Mediterranean shrublands. 

Physical features: almost always irregular texture
Colour: amber coloured, with grey-green hues
Smell: pungent, grass like, similar to coffee grounds
Taste: very distinctive, bitter
Usage: table honey

 

 

 

Heath honey
(Erica arborea)

Produced in springtime from  Liguria to Calabria (and on  the largest islands), typical of  Mediterranean shrublands.

Physical features: quick crystallization, fine crystals, pasty texture. When liquid it is never perfectly crystal
clear.
Colour: amber like or very dark with orange hues.
Smell: medium intense, caramel like
Taste: normally sweet, fudge-like, slightly bitter
Usage: table honey, less filling then other hone types

 

Eucalyptus tree honey
(Eucalyptus spp.)

Produced in the centre  and south of Italy where  eucalyptus trees were  planted as natural  windbreakers or for  reforesting purposes,  especially along the  Tyrrhenian coastline of Maremma (in Latium region especially) and also in Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia.

Physical features: it crystallizes spontaneously quite quickly generating a compact mass made of very fine crystals.
Colour: medium amber like, when crystallized it fades to grey
Smell: intense, not very fine, similar to dried mushroom, smoky, caramel like.
Taste: strong and distinctive, liquorice like.
Usage: table honey

 

Sunflower honey
(Helianthus annulus)

Unifloral honey mostly  produced in the centre  of Italy where the most  sunflower crops are located. 

Physical features: quick but variable crystallization
Colour: very typical, bright yellow
Smell: medium intense, fruity, pollen-like, stewed fruit.
Taste: slightly herbaceous, refreshing, similar to melting sugar, especially when the texture is very fine.
Usage: table honey but it is also widely use for cakes and in the agrifood industry.

 

 

 

Lavender honey
(Lavandula spp.)

Mostly produced in France  and Spain where this plant  is more widespread. In  Spain and Sardinia there is  also wild lavender honey  (Lavandula stoechas) which  has different features, a less  intense but finer aroma. 

Physical features: usually fine texture
Colour: from fair to amber like
Smell: very intense
Taste: distinctive, passion fruit like.
Usage: very fine table honey Fir tree

 

 

 

Honeydew honey
(Abies alba and Picea excelsa)

Produced in the Alps and  in the Apennines between  Tuscany and Emilia  Romagna only in the silver  fir forests of the Foreste  Casentinesi area. 

Physical features: usually fine texture
Colour: very dark, almost black, with a light green and fluorescent note
Smell: medium intense, resinous, similar to burnt wood, caramel sugar
Taste: less sweet and cloying then nectar honey, balsamic, malt like, candied orange zest, resinous, condensed milk.
Usage: table honey

 

 

Honeydew honey
(wild)

In many Italian regions during  the summer honeydew  honey is produced but it  is not possible to trace it  to a single specific plant  of origin. It results from  the plants attacked by an  insect (Metcalfa pruinosa)  that feeds itself on the sap  of various plants, both wild and farmed crops, and then  produces a lot of honeydew.  This insect, of American  origin, was first introduced  in our country thirty years  ago and now it is largely  widespread. 

Physical features: generally liquid
Colour: from amber like to almost black
Smell: herbaceous but fruity, reminds of stewed vegetables, preserves or pulped tomatoes, fig jam notes, yeasty notes.
Taste: less sweet and cloying than nectar honey, slightly savoury, malt like, notes of dried prune, dried fruit and molass.
Usage: table honey

 

Rhododendron honey
(Rhododendron spp.)

It is produced exclusively  on the Alps, at an altitude  where the climate is  so instable that honey  production varies  enormously from one year  to another. 

Physical features: it crystallizes spontaneously  after some months, often it  forms a compact mass of  fine or pasty coarse, round  and sticky crystals 
Colour: very fair, almost white when crystallized
Smell: fruity, very delicate Taste: delicate, fruity, gumdrop-like.
Usage: table honey

 

Sulla honey
(Hedysarum coronarium)

Sulla is a forage crop typical  of clay soil of Mediterranean  shrublands; it blooms at the  end of spring with beautiful  red flowers. It is produced  mostly in the central,  southern and island regions  of the country. 

Physical features: it  crystallizes spontaneously  after the harvest, it forms  generally a quite compact  mass of medium or fine  crystals 
Colour: fair, almost white when crystallized
Smell: very delicate
Taste: delicate with a pleasant herbaceous note
Usage: any

 

 

Dandelion honey
(Taraxacum officinale)

Early spring honey typically  produced in Lombardy and Piedmont and almost  exclusively if the bee  colonies are enough  developed when this plant  blooms. 

Physical features: it crystallizes spontaneously very quickly with very fine and regular crystals making up a creamy and soft mass.
Colour: amber like with yellow hues, when liquid; creamy white or yellow when crystallized.
Smell: very intense and distinctive: tangy and pungent, acetic, almost ammonia-like, similar to a bitter almond liqueur, foxy, dried flowers notes.
Taste: finer than its smell, chamomile tea like, notes of fresh spices and marzipan
Usage: table honey, provided people like its distinctive taste

 

Lime tree honey
(Tilia spp.)

Produced from wild lime  trees at the feet of the Alps,  often mixed with chestnut trees and from trees located  along avenues and parks,  if enough widespread. Sometimes it is also mixed with lime tree honeydew.

Physical features: it crystallizes with coarse crystals
Colour: from fair to very dark according to the mixed honeydew quantity.
Smell: medium intense, distinctive, fresh, aromatic, mentholated, balsamic, resinous, medicine-like, light lime tree tea.
Taste: mentholated and resinous
Usage: table honey

 

 

Thyme honey
(Thymus cepitatus)

Different types of  spontaneous wild flowers  are used for the production  of multi-floral honey. The  following description refers  to unifloral thyme honey  produced in the inner  mountain areas of Sicily. 

Physical features: it crystallizes slowly and spontaneously after some months, often with irregular crystals
Colour: medium amber like
Smell: intense, floral, rose-like
Taste: very intense, in-between floral and “chemical” notes, reminds of cedar wood, similar to fortified wine
Usage: table honey 

 

Italian honey a wealth of variety and richness 

Multifloral honey

Honey in the kitchen

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