Miel de Noire: The Artisan Belgian Honey
Miel de Noire: The Artisan Belgian Honey
Belgium, officially called the Kingdom of Belgium, is located on the western side of Europe and borders the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea. It is the 6th most densely populated country in Europe and its capital is Brussels.
Outside the country, Belgium is well known for its chocolates, waffles, beer, and fries. But due to its location, it has a lot of influence from the cuisines of neighboring countries, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In Belgian cuisine, seasonal ingredients are normally used and the most traditional are potatoes, leeks, white asparagus, Belgian endives, mussels, and local beer.
These are very traditional ingredients from Belgium, but a special ingredient is little known: Miel de Noire or Black Bee Honey. Belgium is home to the Black Bees, an indigenous bee, which has been perfectly adapted to the cold Belgian climate and they are an excellent pollinator. This bee belongs to the subspecies of black bees (Apis mellifera mellifera). It descends from European bees but they are more resistant to environmental factors. Their body is dark, in some cases with tiny lighter dots on their abdomen and very thin streaks of white. Compared with other subspecies, the black bee can gather pollen from a much wider variety of flowering plants.
In the 19th century, it could find this species all over the country, but from the middle of the century, several beekeepers began to bring bees originally from other areas. For this reason, the uncontrolled crossbreeding wiped out the purebred bees, since the hybrid bees are usually very aggressive. Thus, along with the general increase in bee mortality, competition is one of the most serious threats to this species from Belgium.
However, some beekeepers choose this specific bee to preserve natural inheritance and also to protect local bees. The Chimay region has become a protected area and it is the only region where black bees remain untouched. In 2016, local producers joined forces to create the “Miel de Noire” label, to create awareness of the importance of preserving this species of bee.
In Belgium, honey is usually harvested twice a year: in the spring when the honey comes from dandelions, fruit tree flowers, and other wild plants, and in the summer, when the honey is from linden, clover, chestnut, blackberry bushes, and other plants. Honey from honeydew, a sweet, sticky substance excreted by aphids and often deposited on leaves and stems, is also produced in the summer. Below is a list of the different types of honey that can be found to consume in Belgium:
- Mountain honey: the name says it all, this honey comes from flowers that occur in the mountains. In several books are recommended as a cure for cold or flu in their early stages.
- Rosemary honey: Just like the herb, this honey has a good effect on the brain. It is recommended for nerves, headaches, and blood disorders. This honey has a distinctive flavor and aroma.
- Linden honey: The typical odor of its flowers can be found when you open a jar of honey and the flavor is all linden. This honey has a calming effect and sleep-promoting properties.
- Eucalyptus honey: This honey is highly beneficial to all respiratory organs. It is great for the throat and vocal cords.
- Clover honey: World famous, unique, and exceptional honey. It has everything that you can expect from honey, tasty, spreadable, it does not contain sugar crystals, it has a white to golden yellow color, high nutrition, and its aroma is exotic.
- Five stars honey: This honey is composed of five different types of honey. Therefore it has all the best properties. It is enriched with royal jelly to obtain an exceptional level of vitamins.
- Flower honey: It is composed of different types of honey and it has the best qualities, a perfect taste, and an exceptional aroma. It contains no sugar crystals and melts on the tongue.
- Thyme honey: This is known as a remedy for coughs and related discomfort. It has a dark color and a strong, heavy flavor.
- Lavender honey: It is brown-colored and exceptionally rich in minerals. The production of pure lavender honey is limited.
- Sunflower honey: It is yellow and exceptionally rich in minerals.
- Heather honey: Because of its antiseptic properties, this honey is recommended for stomach sufferers. It has a golden brown to dark brown color.
- Rapeseed honey: This honey is also recommended for stomach sufferers. It has a whiter color.
- Native honey: This honey is particularly recommended for allergy sensitivity because the pollen from the area is processed in the honey and so can create resistance against certain types of pollen.
- Sage honey: This honey has a high moisture content. It takes several months before this honey begins to crystallize. It is often marketed in liquid form and because of that, it is very easily soluble in liquids. Sage honey has a light brown color and it has a very strong taste, and contains ethereal oils. Specifically recommended for the cold weather.
- Acacia honey: It is a very sweet honey. It is fluid in its composition and floral, with the sweet scent of acacia white blossom.
- Pine honey: it is strong smelling and dark-colored honey with a strong flavor. It is unusual honey because it is not entirely produced by honey bees. It is produced by bees that collect honeydew from a scale insect that lives on the sap of certain pine trees.
The honey is separated by centrifugation, filtered, and then left to rest for a few days to settle. After that, the honey is stirred slowly for a few days to obtain the right texture. At the end of the process, the honey is decanted into jars and stored for later sale. Belgian black bees produce around 10 tons of honey per year. According to the European Commission, in the Honey Market Overview of 2020, Belgium had 70,000 hives and more than 8000 beekeepers.
Protecting natural heritage is something important that must be valued more and more. Beekeepers in Belgium are doing this and producing this local delicacy called Black Bee Honey or Miel de Noir.
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