What Are The Basic Types Of Greek Honey?
THYME: Thyme honey is the most revered Greek honey, but mainly because thyme-fed bees produce less honey, making it rarer and so more expensive.
Thyme honey is light in color, with an intense herbal aroma, and tends to crystallize after about 6 to 18 months, depending on storage conditions and temperature. Produced in spring, when thyme flowers. Most famous are from Crete and Kythera.
PINE (Sometimes called FOREST HONEY) About 65% of all Greek honey is pine honey. Its mahogany color is the telltale sign of its rich mineral content, which includes potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and sodium. It does not crystallize easily. Pine honey has the highest percentage of antioxidants of all Greek honey.
BLOSSOM: from wild flowers and orange blossoms. Delicious aroma but more delicate than other honeys. Can crystallize more easily.
HEATHER: Produced in the early Fall, after the first rains, if it is warm enough for heather to blossom. Dark, reddish color and very thick, almost solid, spreadable texture. Tends to crystallize in about three months.
CHESTNUT: Very different with a very faint, pleasant bitterness. One of the rarest Greek honeys.
FIR: The only PDO Greek honey, from Vytina in the Peloponessos. It is considered one of the rarest and best and almost never crystallizes.
What Do Wild Plants Have To Do With The Quality Of Greek Honey?
Wild flowers and herbs– not organized monocultures–provide bees with their nourishment and, in turn, make for the single most important reason why Greek honey is so good.
Greek beekeepers move their hives from one place to another depending on the season, so that the bees can feed on various, specific flowering plants, such as thyme, heather, chestnut blossoms, pine, orange blossoms, etc. That is why we have specific honey varieties, such as thyme, pine, etc.
What Regions In Greece Is Honey Produced?
Honey is produced almost everywhere. Some places stand out:
- Crete and Kythera are renowned for their thyme honey.
- Vytina, in the Peloponnese highlands around Tripoli, is renowned for its fir honey.
- In Halkidiki,, about 30% of all Greek honey is produced.
- The Dodecanese is a major commercial producer.
- Epirus is home to some of the most unusual honey, especially bittersweet chestnut honey.
What Is The Difference Between Thyme And Blossom Honey?
The best Greek honey is identified by type, i.e. thyme, blossom, pine, etc. These terms refer to the plants bees feed from. When thyme is in season, for example, the honey extracted after that cycle is called thyme honey. When they feed on wild blossoms that honey is called blossom honey. Typically, the plant that lends its name to the honey is the plant that they have fed from the most. It’s rare, almost impossible, to have 100% thyme honey, or blossom honey, etc., because nature itself is varied. These names NEVER mean that the honey is somehow infused with thyme after the fact. August in Greece, in a pine forest with bees: the quality of Greek honey is unsurpassed thanks to the ways bees feed—on specific, seasonal flowering plants, shrubs, and trees, which is how we get pine honey, thyme honey, etc.
What Is The Best Honey?
This is something people ask me all the time, but there is no real answer to this question. Thyme honey is sometimes considered the best, but that’s because when bees feed on thyme, they produce less honey than when they feed on, say, pine. So the relative rarity makes thyme honey more expensive, which in turn makes people think it is somehow “better.” One typical bee colony, when feeding on thyme blossoms, will produce about five kilos of honey. When feeding on pine, the quantities are closer to 20 kilos of honey per hive.The gauge is personal taste. My favorite honey is pine. I love the dark minerality of the honey and the viscous texture. I also love the dense, almost solid texture of heather honey, which is considered among my fellow Ikarian islanders to be the best.