From Cornwall, my spiritual home, I heard about ivy honey. It’s an intriguing idea, and sounds like it should be an ingredient in a spell, or indeed that it is the result of witchery; the magicking of the dark toxins of Hedera helix into molten golden sugars.
A local beekeeper told me that ivy honey isn’t common, because it’s so difficult to harvest – the honey crystallises unusually fast, meaning that you can’t rely on the centrifuging process which usually spins a weft of blonde liquid out of honeycomb fixed around a drum. Instead, when bees have been foraging on ivy flowers the beekeeper has to cut the resulting honeycomb out and warm it to melt the crystallised honey (making sure to stop before the heat melts the beeswax which holds it). A fiddly kind of alchemy.
And is it worth it? I approached the pot of ivy honey I ordered online from the Lizard Peninsula (which is exactly the kind of address a honey witch would give) with some trepidation. It’s a dark, toffee-coloured honey, waxy in consistency. The aroma is surprisingly flowery and light, but the taste is certainly not. It’s not a very sweet honey, and there is a bitter kick in it which hits you as the crystallised paste melts in your mouth. I tried to place the flavour and then I got it – if a pointy-chinned woman got out her wand and turned a Stilton into a honey, this is what it would taste like.
And is that a good thing? Honestly, I don’t think so.
My book Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo is now available on Amazon
I have used a pot of ivy honey for taste testing at our apiary. It is the marmite of honeys and people either love it or hate it. Of all the honeys available ivy honey was the most prefered by around 50% of people and most disliked by the other 50%.
I used to dislike it but now am rather fond of it.
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