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Orange Blossom Honey

Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom honey is often made from mixed citrus nectars (Citrus ssp.) including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mandarins, tangerines, limes and many others. It is a thick, very sweet honey. Initially the aroma is of medium intensity reminiscent of orange blossoms. With time, it takes on an additional delicate fruity aroma like marmalade with slightly citric acid tones. Light amber to white, the lighter color and milder flavor coming in years when there is a large harvest and the honey is little contaminated by other nectars. It will darken with age and crystallizes slowly into granules of various sizes. It is difficult to tell the dominant citrus species by pollen analysis, but different proportions of citrus nectar and other plants can change the color, flavor and aroma. Orange Blossom honey contains caffeine which is a unique characteristic, although the amount is less than 4mg/Kg of honey, much less than decaffeinated coffee. Another unique marker is the

Orange Blossom Honey

Orange Blossom honey has a sweet and mild flavor and a light citrus fruity taste. A pollen count of Citrus species is generally targeted at 20% or higher to be labeled Orange Blossom Honey. This may seem low, but because of its naturally low pollen count, this indicates a much higher proportion of Orange Blossom nectar. Pure Orange Blossom honey is rare in Florida because of other citrus plants blossoming within the range of bees. In California a higher proportion is more common because of lack of competition by other plants at nectar flow time. In Italy, if the proportion of nectar from other citrus plants is too high and it influences the taste and color, the honey may be named Citrus honey. The primary orange species is usually the sweet orange (C. sinensis), however there are variations. In Italy it is produced in Corsica as Clementine Honey (C. reticulata), in Sicily from Sweet Oranges (C. Sinensis) and in Calabria as Citrus honey (a mix of lemon, mandarin, bergamot, citron nectars) and on occasion as a single flower honey such as Bergamot Honey.

The visual experience of an orange grove in full bloom of white blossoms in contrast to the dark green leaves, combined with the the sweet fragrance of the nectar-filled blossoms is a wonder to behold and never forget! Common species of orange are C. Sinensis – Sweet, C. Aurantium – Bitter, C. Reticulata – Mandarin, and C. Bergamia – Bergamot in Calabria, Italy.

Citrus Slices

The Citrus plant originated in southeastern Asia where it was likely carried by the Arabs into Africa and Spain and later by Spanish settlers into Florida. Other important hybrids of Citrus, the grapefruit (C. × paradisi), the lime (C. × latifolia), and the lemon (C. x limon) and the tangerine (C. × Tangerina).

Specific Markers of Citrus HoneyA minimum pollen count of 15 to 20% and the ester, Methyl anthranilate (MA) with minimum concentrations of approx 0.5 ppm. Esters are commonly used in the fragrance and flavor industry for their pleasant fruity odor. MA has aroma characteristics described as fruity, concord grape, musty with a floral powdery nuance.

Honey Origins: Italy (Sicily, Calabria), Spain (Granada), Mexico, France, and USA (Florida, Southern California, Texas, Arizona), Israel.

Translations: Portuguese: Mel de flor de laranjeira, Spanish: Miel de azahar, Italian: Miele di arancio (orange blossom) – Miele di agrumi (citrus spp.), French: Miel de fleur d’oranger; Miel d’oranger; Miel de Mandarinier, Greek: μέλι πορτοκαλιού, German: Orangenblüten Honig

Therapeutic: Plays a beneficial role for intestinal problems and nervousness. Its is recommended to treat insomnia, added to herbal teas. A study shows that Sweet Orange honey may also decrease the affects of alcohol intoxication. See Effect of Nigerian citrus (Citrus sinensis Osbeck) honey on ethanol metabolism

Protected Geographical Status (PGS) framework (PDO/PGI) – EU: Miel de Granada (Spain) from Citrus Sinensis. Produced in the province of Granada, in valley areas where these crops are abundant. The Lecrín Valley and La Alpujarra, Sierra Nevada are the main production areas. Spain requires the pollen content to be greater than 15% of Citrus species. Typical percentages are 17% to 40%.

Unique markers for Mono Floral Orange Blossom Honey: Since citrus honey is under-represented by pollen (minimums of 15% to 20%), it is difficult to use this as a measure of the purity or origin. Two markers proposed are hesperetin and the ester, methyl antranilate (MA). MA shows most promise as a marker with minimum concentrations of MA of approx 0.5 ppm proposed. MA is an ester which are commonly used in the fragrance and flavor industry for their pleasant fruity odor. MA has aroma characteristics described as fruity, concord grape, musty with a floral powdery nuance. While hesperatin was found in citrus honey, there was no strong correlation between hesperatin and citrus pollen count.

Image Credit – Orange Blossoms: Ellen Levy Finch (Elf) GNU Free Documentation License Citrus Slices from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/k7226-29.htm Photo by Scott Bauer.

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Further Reading:
Physico-chemical methods for characterization of unifloral honeys: a review (pdf – 167Kb)
Methyl Anthranilate – Good Scents People

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