France is known for making high quality honey since ages. Bee keeping in France can be dated back to 5th century A.D during which Gauls of Celtic civilization used bees for honey and beeswax. In fact the skills of beekeeping passed down to Gauls from Greeks. Coming to the present condition, France possess 22 regions and every region is renowned for producing a unique variety of French honey. Among the 22 regions of France Rhone-Alps is credited for being the largest producer of honey. On the other hand island of Corsica produces least amount of honey in France. Getting interested to know more about French honey? Here is an overview of what is French honey and various types of French honey.
What is French honey?
Honey produced in various regions of France such as the Rhone-Alps, Island of Corsica, Reunion Island, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and Martinique Islands and French Guiana is termed as French honey. It can be categorized in to two main groups depending on the floral source.
French honey from one type of blossom and its varieties
Honey made from the nectar that is collected entirely from one floral variety is termed as monofloral French honey. Example Acacia honey is entirely derived from blossoms of Acacia tree. In natural conditions it is hard to obtain monofloral honey as it is impossible to control the bees. To obtain these monofloral varieties, bee keepers create suitable conditions and restrict the bees to only specific variety of blossoms.
Varieties of monofloral French honey
There are numerous varieties of monofloral French honey such as the Acacia honey, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Blueberry, Asphodel, Heather, carrot, cherry, chestnut, Clementine, Clover, Dandelion, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Alder, Ivy, Holly, Lemon, Lavender, Linden, Rosemary, Savory, Strawberry, Thyme, Sunflower, Thistle and Willow honey. Each of these honey varieties has their unique flavor and aroma depending on the floral source. Few varieties have medicinal value, few varieties have a mild taste that makes them best for daily use, while others have a mild bitter flavor and are preferred by very few people.
French honey from various types of blossoms and its varieties
If the honey bees gather nectar from various flowers and store it in the comb then the resultant honey is termed as the polyfloral honey. Multifloral French honey also includes various varieties. They are:
- Honey of the Plateau/ Miel de causse: This honey is derived mainly from sainfoin, wild thyme, clover and blackberry. It is produced in Causses (limestone plateaus) of Larzac, Mejean and Quercy regions of France.
- Garrigue Honey: This is derived from thyme, rosemary, savory, blackberry, white clover and lavender blossoms.
- Forest honey/ Deciduous/ Harwood forest honey/Miel de foret: This is derived from nectar of ash and linden trees, clover and honeydew of maples and lime trees.
- High mountain honey/Le miel de haute montagne: Honey derived from wild thyme and rhododendron.
- Mountain honey/ Le miel de montagne: Derived from nectar of blueberry, clover, raspberry, trefoil, knapweed, wild cherry, hawthorn, basswood, buckwheat, thyme, buckthorn, widow flower, bell flower, scabious, fireweed and rock rose.
- Spring honey/ miel de printemps: Produced from nectar of sainfoin, rapeseed, willow, hawthorn, alfalfa and dandelion.
- Summer honey/ miel dete: Derived from clover, acacia and mulberry honeydew.
These polyfloral honeys generally have strong flavor due to mixture of nectar from multiple sources.
Identifying the origin and quality of French honey
Some easy to use tips to find if your honey is genuine French honey. One of the best way is to look for seals / certificates / origin from any of these below:
- INAO (National Institute for Origin and Quality) takes care of the process of identification of quality and origin of a particular batch of honey. The common quality labels used in France include
- AOC: Indicates honey of Corsica region/ Miel de Corse.
- PDO: Indicates honeydew of Fir of Vosges region/Miel de sapin des Vosges.
- PGI: Indicates honey of Provence /Miel de Provence.
It is highly recommended to know what is French honey and its varieties before choosing a particular variety. Also check for the presence of quality labels that serve as indicators for quality and origin of nectar