I feel like Harry Potter. I’ve just received through the post a brown cardboard box containing small jars labelled ‘viper’s bugloss’ and ‘pohutukawa’. My first guess is that pohutukawa is the antidote spell for poisoning by viper’s bugloss.
The jars come, as they might do in a fairy tale, from ‘J Friend and Co‘. They might as well have a note on them saying, ‘Eat me’.
I do eat them, but not till I’ve done some googling. I find a picture of the viper’s bugloss and the pohutukawa tree which turns out to be a stunning red-flowering shrub known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree. The jars in my box from J Friend and Co, of course contain monofloral honeys produced from these extraordinary-sounding plants.
In fact I like the viper’s bugloss honey even better than the pohutukawa. It’s waxy and almost without a scent, and certainly not as sweet, but its butterscotch and ripe banana taste lasts even as it’s swallowed.
The honey from the unpronounceable bee forage is unsurprisingly complex. It has a floral and vanilla nose and a taste of red fruits with a slightly bitter aftertaste and a strange kick of salt. Can you imagine a raspberry, chicory and vanilla smoothie?
I am predisposed to like these honeys – they are organic and the company has CarboNZero certification. Everything I see and taste from this company tells me that it has been done mindfully. These honeys make you think. They make me think about New Zealand and, as an expat from Britain myself, I think about New Zealand’s British settlers, landing in their promised land and discovering that it was a land without honey – or bees. With slightly more trouble than I smuggled a jar of Marmite inside a jumper when we moved to Kosovo, settlers later brought with them the first basket beehives, and let loose the little winged bodies to explore the unaccustomed nectar of the garish pastiche of holly that is the pohutukawa tree.
And now I can sit in Kosovo and explore it too. I roll the word pohutukawa around my tongue.
My book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo is now available on Amazon