Saturday, February 02, 2008

Atina Bali | Honey of Athens

Mavi Boncuk |

For the palates of Istanbul gourmets the top product during the Ottoman era was honey from Athens. Price (narh) records during the times of Sultan Ibrahim records wholesale price of 11 akces and a retail control pegged at 13 akces. Raw, unheated Athens honey was recorded 14 and 16 akces respectively. Honey from Crete was considered the second best. Ankara honey repleced both sources after the loss of Greece and Crete.

Athens honey was produced in two areas. "Weeping Pine Honey" from Evia, East of Athens, an amber color honey and "Heather Honey" from Sterea Hellas, Central Greece Collected in November in the area of Strerea Hellas, North of Athens, with explosive sweetness and strong aroma. Crete as a place rich in plants like thyme, sage, oregano, pine trees, acacias, eucalyptus and citrus fruits produced mostly "Wild Thyme Honey" even if thyme honey is mixed in small quantities (5%) with other types of honey, it managed to influence their perfume.

Some writers confuse this honey with honey [1] from Black Sea. Possibly with honey produced in the Camlihemsin area. This (Mad Honey) Deli bali is a mono-crop honey made from the spring flowers of the rhododendron (R. ponticum) that thrive on the humid Black Sea mountains. The nectar of the blooms contains andromedotoxin, a substance that can cause all sorts of weird effects in humans. Honey is an excellent local buy wherever in Turkey. Some of the mono-crop honeys to look out for are cam (pine), portakal (orange blossom), akasya (acacia) and kestane (chestnut). Whole natural honeycombs and nuts suspended in honey are also worth tracking down. Generally, the darker the colour, the more intense the flavour.

The European Union relies on Greece, one of the world's biggest bee settlements, to produce 14,000 tons of honey each year. The country is the European Union's third-top producer of honey. EU imported some 200,000 tons of honey each year and Turkey, which produces 70,000 tons of honey each year [2], exports only 18,000 to Europe.

[1] Prokopius, mentiones Athenae village (4th. century AD) of Rhizaeum, named after Athenai, a woman who ruled in the area. (Prokopius, Peri Ton Polemon, VIII. II. 1-33; AKKB 201). Renamed Pazar in 1928 as part of Çoruh province until Jan 2, 1936 and is now part of Rize province.

[2] Turkish product ranked 10th with 15,000 tons in 1970 ranked 4th in the world in 2000 with 63,500 tons (China 253, US 101, Argentina, 91)

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