Showing posts with label Cretan honey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cretan honey. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Greece: A honey of a destination

Greece, quite literally, is a honey of a destination.

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Athens, Greece from our airplane 2013

As we prepare to return this spring to the Peloponnese, Crete and other yet-to-be-determined places we know the one common treasure we’ll find is their liquid gold. . . honey.

In Greece, honey is infused into soap and shampoo. You can find it in beauty products from face cream to foot lotions. We’ve even used wax balms on our lips – thanks to those industrious bees who produce the honey.

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Feta cheese bake in phyllo then smothered in honey, sesame seeds and onion

We’ve drizzled it by thick spoonful onto fresh-made Greek yogurt for breakfast. We finished our evening meals with complimentary servings of fresh fruit slices topped with it or pieces of cake soaked with it.
While honey is commonly found in every region of Greece, each region’s product has a slightly different taste and characteristics. 

Busy as Bees. . .

As we drove narrow roadways that curled and climbed through the rugged terrain of both the Peloponnese and Crete -- each is a honey producing area -- it became a contest of sorts to spots hives we passed along the way.
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Roadways aren't for the faint-hearted
By the numbers there are some 1.3 million hives and 25,000 beekeepers responsible for the 12,000 tons of honey produced annually in Greece.

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Orange groves/harvest in the Peloponnese

Luckily we will be returning to Greece, during the ‘honey season’ which generally begins in March and continues to the end of November in the southernmost areas of the country.

During this time hives are moved from field to field and slope to slope. The moves provide the seasonal flavors to the honey – orange blossoms in May, wild thyme in July, forests in September and Heather fields in both May and September.  Honey is harvested after the feeding periods to capture the best flavors.

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Wild thyme lines a Crete hiking path
We will be making our fifth trip to Crete – we can’t resist its charms.

Or is it the the thick, hearty thyme honey we’ve discovered in southern Crete that keeps us returning?

It’s a flavor unlike any honey we’ve had anywhere else. We’ve commonly referred to it as our ‘nectar of the Gods’.

Honey of the Gods. . .

However, it was in Poulithro, a coastal village in the Peloponnese – at the Hotel Byzantinon, where we were, last year, introduced to a honey blend so rich in flavor and beautifully colored (an almost pearl metallic highlight) that we understood completely why it is called, “Melithion” which means, ‘honey of the Gods’.

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Melitheon - Honey of the Gods

Christos Kritsidimas, son of the hotel owners, said his family had been buying the honey and serving it as part of the breakfast they provide with a room rental. “The guests kept asking where they could buy the honey. They wanted to take it home.”

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Christos and George Kritsidimas
Talks began with the honey suppliers and Christos, who formerly worked in the banking industry, began Vasiliki, his  new company that produces and markets, “Melithion” and soon other varieties of honey.

“Vasiliki,” he explained has a double meaning. It is both his mother’s name and synonymous with royalty. “We think of this product as the Rolls Royce of honey.”

Melithion is a blend of primarily black fir tree honey dew and Thyme nectar, with combinations of smaller amounts of herbs and local flowers contributing to its unique blend, including Arbutus, Maple, Heather and Tea.

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The Black Fir grows at the 1,500 meter (4,921 feet) elevation in the Mainalo mountain range that towers over the Peloponnese southwest of Tripoli. It’s a distinct species in the fir family and produces a honey known as Banilias (vanilla) – it is the only Greek honey to carry a Protected Designation of Origin. This honey is considered an excellent source of essential trace elements include potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron – as well as numerous vitamins.

“Our particular variety of honey provides a perfect balance in taste with the vanilla being less sweet and the thyme being sweeter,” he explains. “It is delicately smooth in flavor with a butterscotch taste at the end.”
The black fir tree honey dew is a resin produced by microorganisms in the tree trunk. Its production is easily affected by the high elevation’s cold and wet temperatures and the harvest is difficult and costly. For that reason, the production of Melithion honey was limited last year to 12,000 jars.

GreecePt12013 228Since Vasiliki’s inception four years ago, the marketing and distribution of honey has been the company’s focus. Christos has taken the brand to trade fairs throughout Europe and hopes to grow its presence in the United States as well.

Melithion can be purchased on-line at, a premium Mediterranian gastronomy shopping experience. For us, it’s another ‘honey’ of a reason to return to Greece this spring!

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday at Inside Journeys

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Taste of Honey - Sweetened with Thyme

Crete is known for its honey.  And we've joined its multitudes of devoted fans.  Cretan honey is the consistency of an icing . . .a thick, golden topping that you nearly need cut though to get to whatever you've put it on.  One of our favorite breakfasts is a simple serving of locally made yogurt with as much honey on top as we can reason would be 'healthful'.  What makes our Sfakian honey special is the slightly smokey flavor with such a strong hint of thyme that it assaults both your sense of smell and taste when opening a jar.

We felt lucky to find some of last year's honey still available; this year's won't appear on grocery shelves until July.  We felt even luckier to find the wild thyme plants in bloom, blanketing the hillsides and the bees so busy with them that they ignored us while we took our hikes through the countryside.  Thyme has covered the hillsides for centuries with some plant stalks looking more like small trunks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Honey and yogurt

We can't get enough of the two. If you've never tried Greek yogurt think of eating cream cheese and you've got an idea of the consistency. Then add to it a smokey, thick amber honey, seasoned with the wild thyme flowers that bloom here twice a year. We purchased our honey from the lady who owns the bakery in Hora Sfakia -- her husband, the baker, is also the one who bottles the honey twice a year. We've saved an enormous amount by having breakfast in each morning and also by having our own honey and yogurt creations.


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