Sardinia (di miele sardo) – ‘Il miele della Sardegna’
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. It has almost exactly the same land mass as New Hampshire. With a complex history, beginning as far back as the Paleolithic period, and solid evidence of settlement from around 6,000 B.C., time has seen the subsequent ebb and flow of peoples. While its location and rough shoreline insulated it partially from the imperial powers of the times, its national character has been tempered by invasions and resistance which are central to Sardinia’s historical identity.
It has a Mediterranean climate and is quite hilly and mountainous, with about 20% flatland, 65% hills (highlands) and 15% mountains. Traditionally pastoral with a insular, subsistence agricultural lifestyle, it is known for goat cheese, wine and meat. Yet it is growing economically through tourism, small business and the service industry.
With over 200 species of nectar producing plants from both natural landscape and pastoral agriculture, Sardinia has produced honey since the Roman times. Estimated at 15,000 tons of honey (2003), this number is likely reduced as a result of eucalyptus suffering from an infestation of the cicada, Psylla and loss of up to 30% of hives due to the world-wide problem of colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Honey is the main ingredient of Sardinian “Torrone” or Nougat. It is made with slight variations throughout the island. The traditional recipe contains egg whites, nuts and 100% honey from Sardinia. This results in a softer, darker version than the famous Cremona white hard nougat.The traditional beehive, used for centuries, is made from cork and is still used in the interior although more modern hives now predominate. The cork is cut and formed into a cylinder. This sits on the ground and is covered with a wooden (often cork) top held on with stones, the bees entered from a hole at the bottom. Harvesting the honey is accomplished by smoking out the bees, and moving them to an empty hive, then removing all the honey from the original hive (see video)… a process that often lost the bees. The honey is squeezed out by hand, the remaining compressed wax combs, still containing pollen and honey, are rinsed in warm water. This water is then boiled and reduced into “Saba Honey” or Saba di miele, a kind of thick jammy syrup eaten on bread, used as a cooking ingredient, or as a filling for cakes.
The signature honeys produced from the characteristic plants of the island are the famous “Miele Amaro” – Bitter honey, from the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), Asphodel (Asphodelus microcarpus) and Thistle (Galactites tomentosa). The imported eucalyptus and a wide variety of plants also produce excellent multi-floral honey and other single flower varieties.
Honey Festival: Sagra dela Miele in August
Cooperative Farm, “Sa Tella” featuring beekeeping, farm tours and accommodation (Italian translated to English)
Honey of Sardinia
- Asphodel Honey (King’s Spear Honey) – ‘Miele di Asfodelo, Mebi di cadrilloni (in Sardinia)’ (Asphodelus microcarpus)
- Carob Tree Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di carrubo della Sardegna’ (Ceratonia siliqua)
- Chestnut Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di castagno della Sardegna’ (Castanea sativa Mill)
- Citrus Honey of Sardina – ‘Miele di agrumi della Sardegna’ (Blossoms of Citrus: Orange, bergamot, lemon, mandarin)
- Dandelion Honey – ‘Miele tarassaco (Dente di Leone)’ (Taraxacum officinale Web)
- Enula Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di enula della Sardenga’ (Inula viscosa)
- Eucalyptus Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di eucalpito della Sardegna’ (Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh)
- Grass Viper Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di erba viperina della Sardegna’ (Echium plantagineum and E. vulgare)
- Heather Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di erica arborea della Sardegna’ (Erica arborea L.)
- Maro Honey (aka Cat Thyme) – ‘Miele di maro’ (Teucrium marum)
- Myrtle – ‘Miele di mirto’ (Myrtus communis)
- Orange Honey – ‘Miele di arancio (Orange Honey)’ (Citrus aurantium) As it is difficult to identify orange honey, this may be a general citrus species honey.
- Rosemary Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di rosmarino della Sardegna’ (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Sardinian Thistle Honey (aka Cardoon honey, Italian Thistle Honey) – ‘Miele di Cardo or Mebi de Cardu pintu (in Sardinia)’ (Galactites tomentosa Moench, Carduus ssp., Cirsium ssp.)
- Strawberry Tree Honey (aka Arbutus) – ‘Miele di corbezzolo or Melalidone olione (in Sardinia)’ (Arbutus unedo L)
- Sulla Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di sulla della Sardegna’ (Hedysarum coronarium L.)
- Thyme Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele di timo della Sardegna’ (Thymus capitatus, Thymus herba-barona, Thymus spp.)
- Wild Lavender Honey – ‘Miele di lavanda selvatica’ (Lavandula stoechas)
- Wildflower Honey of Sardinia – ‘Miele Millefori della Sardegna’: From wild flowers typical of Sardinia. Spring honey is typically clear and autumn honey dark. Clear honeys are often composed of Asfodelus species, Lavandula stoechas, Echium species, Trifolium species and Rosmarinus (along the shore). Light honey has a floral scent, is mild flavored and medium sweet and Dark honeys are mainly composed of Carduus species, such as Galactites tormentosa, and Cistus species. Dark honey has an intense aroma with a taste that varies from sweet to very sweet and is usually fruity, sometimes with a bitter and complex aftertaste.1)
- Mediterranean Scrub Honey of Sardinia (aka Scrub Honey) – ‘Miele di Macchia or Il miele di Macchia Mediterranea’: Commonly produced from dense Mediterranean coastal (evergreen) scrubs. Has a particular flavor recognizable from year-to-year but different depending upon the prevalence of a particular species. Nectar from Erica arborea, Lavandula, Asphodel, Rockrose, Rosemary and a diverse number of thistles as well as woody plants.
- Honey Product: Abbamele (“honey water”) – ‘Abba e mele, Saba di mele, Sapa di miele, Abbattu’: A very old traditional Sardinian food made by pressing honey combs after the honey is extracted and flavoring the reduction with orange peel. Also known for its homeopathic and tonic qualities. Abbamele is dark with a complex concentrated flavor, not too sweet, with a toasty flavor and hints of coffee and caramel. It is also delicious with fresh cheese, the grilled polenta, or to accompany desserts and ice cream. Or serve it in the classic style with some fresh ricotta as dessert after a meal.
PAT – Honey certified as a Traditional Italian Food.
Honey identified and cataloged by the Arc of Taste (Slow Foods)
Cork Hive – Material taken from www.sardegnadigitallibrary.it – Darius Loddo – Location
Other Resources, Bibliography, Further Reading
1/ Floris, Ignazio, Alberto Satta, and Luca Ruiu. “Honeys of Sardinia.” Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World, 19 July 2007. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.