Eeyore knew what he was doing. Feasting on thistles sounds like a hair shirt of a treat, but – as I should have guessed from a character who usually has a sweet edge to his prickliness – my first encounter with thistle honey, this evening, was a delicious revelation.
I looked up the honey in the wonderful Dictionary of Honey from Nomadic Bees (Corraini Edizioni, 2008) where I learned how bees appreciate thistles because of their flowering at times when other blooms are rare. And the dictionary told me that the honey would taste of white pepper and geraniums. Frankly, it seemed unlikely.
I spooned some into my mouth. It was fragrant, spicy, reminiscent of… wait a minute – this honey really does taste like geraniums. My mind boggles; so what would geranium honey taste of?
The Dictionary of Honey from Nomadic Bees also suggests a recipe using thistle honey ‘for your children’. Heat some milk, add salt to taste and dissolve the honey in it until its texture becomes like creamy toffee, then spoon onto slices of banana. It was an intriguing idea and I set about some amateur chemistry.
Not that Eeyore, the thistle-lover, is much of a fan of experimentation:
- “I thought,” said Piglet earnestly, “that if Eeyore stood at the bottom of the tree, and if Pooh stood on Eeyore’s back, and if I stood on Pooh’s shoulders -“
- “And if Eeyore’s back snapped suddenly, then we could all laugh. Ha Ha! Amusing in a quiet way,” said Eeyore, “but not really helpful.”
- “Well,” said Piglet meekly, “I thought -“
- “Would it break your back, Eeyore?” asked Pooh, very much surprised.
- “That’s what would be so interesting, Pooh. Not being quite sure till afterwards.”
Making thistle honey toffee isn’t exactly back-breaking work. One thing I did learn: to achieve a creamy toffee consistency you take it off the heat (in fact I put it in the fridge and then in desperation in the freezer). Once it had cooled it was fabulous to pour over banana. It might have sweetened even Eeyore’s temper; he would only have been cross that I fussed over writing about it:
“This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.”
To read more of what I’ve done with pencils and what-not, see my Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published by Signal Books (2011) and available through bookshops and on Amazon.