I’m a convert .. No more medicine tasting Manuka ..Heather honey is delicious (understatement).
Thank you both for all your help."
Maria Murphy. Wexford
Heather Honey. What's all the Buzz About ??
Well, it has been an exciting time for us Heather Honey producers.
All Thanks to Ms.Saorla Kavanagh and the other wonderful team members who analysed our Irish Heather Honey, and Monofloral Honey with regard to its total Phenolic content.
Which in lay mans ( and women's ) terms, equates to its antioxidant levels and potency in relation to its anti microbial qualities.
It was compared to, and graded against the much lauded and heavily marketed imported top strength Manuka Honey.
Now the exciting bit !!
Our Irish Heather honey ,with minimal food miles, produced in the pristine highlands ( and bog lowlands ) actually was found to be more potent than this Imported Manuka Honey !
Yes, more potent ! Did I mention it was more potent !
So our heather Honey , which last season I found extremely difficult to sell to all but a cohort of devoted fans, who suspected correctly that this unique monofloral single source honey with its strong flavor, was something very special !.
This exquisite Honey is as above a monofloral variety, as in the bees almost and usually exclusively will forage for nectar and Pollen on our native Ling Heather plant.
To produce this honey means bringing strong colonies of Bees from the lowland sites where they are year around, up to the heather moors during August and September.
It is not for the faint hearted !. As involves a lot of work in moving extremely heavy Hives of bees full of Summer stores of honey up to these remote mountain sites.
There is though a certain,and I use the terms carefully, romanticism and magic in bringing the Hives up to such remote wild stunning locations.
OK .... enough of the Waxing lyrically... It is Bloody hard work but hugely enjoyable.
Well mostly... apart from the time when I stopped to grab a takeaway coffee in Avoca and returned to find the Bees in one of the Hives had found a tiny gap in the sealed entrance, and a few hundred had escaped into my van ! . The reaction of the couple parked next to me as I opened the door and a couple of hundred bees flew out .... Priceless !!!
Heather Honey does command a higher price at point of sale, but given the extra work and transport involved. It is doubtful it makes economic sense for me at this stage to focus on it... but I love the whole experience so no doubt will find myself up in the mountains again next year getting a regular soaking !.
To put its higher price into perspective, which will be set at approx €25.00 per 280Grm. jar
Its less potent equivalent in top strength Manuka Honey retails at ,
Wait for it .... approx € 75.00 for a 250grm Jar ! .... Ooouchhh !!!!
With regard to its characteristics it is complex in flavor and has a strong almost caramel and smoky note. God that sounds like the waffle on a wine label ... but it is true !.
It is also ..... Thixotrophic ... ThickSoWhaaa ?.
As in, it is in a gelatinous state in the comb and only becomes sufficiently viscous with agitation. Bit like myself on a Monday morning !
In Ireland we have two varieties of what we commonly call Heather. Ling Heath ( aka Heather ) and Bell Heather. The majority of Irish Heather Honey is from the later flowering Ling Heather plant. Both varieties of plant loving of acid peaty substrate to grow in and damp exposed conditions, conditions not suited to many other Irish plants.
Part of the secret to getting a good crop is to time it right. Getting your colonies up there just as the heather is about to flower, usually in early August and pray to the God's for a decent spell of calm and dry weather. After what hopefully has been a damp June and July to allow good growth and formation of flower buds.
Also the colonies transported up to these highland sites need to be strong, bursting with foraging Bees in their prime headed up with a current seasons queen. Then it is a case of managing them so they have space to store this amber golden honey that hopefully is piling in. OK that is it in theory, as we all know with Irish weather the reality can be very different, with bees "confined to their quarters" during higher altitude temperatures, heavy rain and high winds in these exposed locations. Still we approach each season convinced this is gonna be a Bumper year !.
The nectar flow can be quite intense in a good year, and can start and end abruptly. This year for me it was the first two weeks in August and it finished end of second week literally as if a tap had been turned off. Though overall it was a good Heather year, that yielded close to just over a Super (top box for bees to deposit honey in) per hive. Already looking forward to next year, especially in light of the fantastic news and coverage this precious and unique crop has justifiably got.
It truly is a good Irish Food story worth shouting about .
Freshly Jarred Gorgeous Ling heather Honey in the sunlight.