This article is part of ITALY Magazine’s "Slow Food series", where we present typical products from the different regions of Italy that make up the network of the non-profit organization’s “presidia”. As explained on the Slow Food website, “The Presidia sustain quality production at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods, safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties.” We stand by this commitment and want to support small producers by making their products and hard work better known to the public.
Honey produced in the mountains is some of the most delicious you will ever taste. Three types of mountain honeys are produced along Italy’s alpine arc: fir honeydew (melata d’abete), rhododendron (rododendro) and wildflower (millefiori). These are made only from nectar or honeydew gathered at altitudes higher than 1,200 meters.
Producing honey at such high altitudes is not easy. Even on a good year, the yield is not generous. The Slow Food Presidium aims to help and protect the work of the few beekeepers who still carry out an itinerant honey production around the Alpine meadows. Nomadism is rarely practiced today as it is less profitable, yet it produces excellent honey products.
As described on the Slow Food Presidium’s website, fir honeydew is dark, almost black, and has a slightly resinous scent which evokes burnt wood and caramelized sugar, with malted, balsamic notes. The rhododendron and wildflower honeys are fresher and more delicate. Both are pale, with a subtle fragrance that recalls berry jams.
Paired with cheese, honey should not be crystallized; rather, use the bain-marie method to liquefy it. Honeydew, which is intense and balsamic, pairs well with medium-aged cheeses; rhododendron and wildflower, which are sweeter, pair well with more pungent cheeses, such as aged pecorino.
Honey is produced in the summer months, but is available all year round.