For centuries, honey has been used in religious ceremonies, as well as for its healing and nutritional properties. In modern times, honey has become a ubiquitous staple in the American diet, as exemplified by the familiar bear-shaped containers on grocery store shelves. More often than not, the honey available to consumers is made from of a multitude of sources, which makes it virtually impossible to detect the idiosyncratic characteristics of the particular varietals blended therein. American honey also undergoes significant heating and straining. While this process ensures that the final product will be consistent with respect to taste, texture, aroma, and color, it has the substantial drawback of removing the honey’s nutritional value. Because of the notable limitations of mass-produced honey, a gastronomic revival of artisanal, single-source honey produced by local and regional apiaries has taken place in recent years.
A fine example of a rare varietal savored by foodies with discerning palates, Corbezzolo honey is produced in limited quantities in the mountainous regions of Sardinia. It has an initial sweetness to it with an enjoyable bitter finish. The polyphenolic resins produced in the nectar are what give the honey its somewhat bitter flavor.
The plant from which this honey is derived is known as Arbutus Unedo. In English, it is referred to as the strawberry tree, as the fruit it produces resemble strawberries. The Arbutus Unedo pollinates for three months. It flowers from November to February and produces about half as much nectar as other flowers. As a result, bees must take twice as many trips from flower to hive to produce the same amount of bitter honey. To ensure adequate production of this rare honey, beehives are actually transported from coastal regions to the areas where these Arbutus Unedo plants grow. All Corbezzolo honey is prepared by hand, including scraping the honey from their combs, which makes this honey free of chemicals and contaminants.
This distinctive honey can be used for medicinal purposes. Specifically, Corbezzolo honey has homeopathic properties, bringing aid to those suffering from asthma and other respiratory ailments. As with most honey, this variety is also used for culinary purposes. You can flavor your dressings and marinades, drizzle it over bold cheeses– such as gorgonzola– or over pastries, ricotta, fruit, or gelato to add a subtle flavor contrast. After you have tried this uniquely delicious and versatile honey, you will, at once, become keenly aware of the multisensory experience that lies far beyond that little honey-shaped bear on your supermarket shelf.