Monday, March 27, 2006

Honey Bee Mine

Last week I mentioned Terroir, the idea that due to factors like soil composition, location has an effect on the way wine, and indeed food in general, tastes. One of the most common foodstuffs of which this is true, yet often is overlooked, is honey. Interestingly, when I opened my email this morning, I had received a link to an online culinary publication that highlights honey this month. That's right -- the type of flower from which the bees extract nectar has an effect on the flavor of the honey. And bees being the little energy conservationists they are, if you place hives near a large source of one particular flower, odds are strongly in favor of that flower predominating the honey produced.

As the article alludes to but does not state, the most common honey in the United States is clover and/or alfalfa honey. There are a few regional favorites of which I'm aware -- in California, Orange Blossom honey is popular. In some other western states, sagebrush honey is. Here in the Northwest, it's blackberry honey.

But as the article also mentions, wildflowers make a dark, sharp-tasting honey. And growing up in Southern Oregon, I developed a taste for honey from an all-too-common local variety of, ahem, "wlidflower". It' s a local secret that not many people even here in Oregon know about, but for those of us raised rurally, especially in the southern end of the state, it can be a passion. The wildflower in question?

Poison Oak.

You heard me right. Poison oak is indeed a flowering plant, and there is SCADS of the stuff all over Southwestern Oregon. And yes, bees produce honey from its flowers. The honey is, like most wildflower honey, darker and sharper than clover honey. It's also a bit stronger, with a wilder flavor, almost spicy or musky. It's an acquired taste, but once acquired, it will haunt you, because it can be hard to find.

But over the weekend I discovered that Market of Choice is stocking it. Glory Bee, a local honey company, produces it, and I knew this, but not many stores will stiock it. MoC has taken a chance, and from what the clerk was telling me, it's getting the same "I've found the Grail!" reaction from other shoppers that it got from me yesterday.

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