Kangaroo Island organic honey
ORGANIC honey produced by what is believed to be the world’s last purebred Ligurian bees has been added to Granny Smith’s shelves. Island Beehive is an enterprise of eight beekeepers co-ordinated by Kangaroo Island’s Peter Davis that collects and markets the island’s unique honey, one of only six Australian foods in Slow Food’s international Ark of Taste. Slow Food’s Foundation for Biodiversity Ark project, based in Italy, catalogues foods at risk of extinction and, by acknowledging and promoting them, encourages people to eat them and so build a market.
This honey is produced only on Kangaroo Island – off South Australia’s coast – by Ligurian bees Apis mellifera ligustica. These bees’ ancestors were imported from Italy in the 1880s. A South Australian act of parliament in 1885 declared the island a sanctuary for the ligurian bee and the keeping of bees other than the ligurian was prohibited. The isolation of the island from the mainland has helped in maintaining a genetically pure population of honeybees that are descendants of the original Ligurian queens. Since the arrival of the Ligurian bee, no other race or strain of honeybee has been introduced to the island, which now is home to the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. The Kangaroo Island bee population is believed to represent the last remaining pure stock of this Italian race found anywhere in the world. Today these bees are considered an important genetic resource for queen breeders and for apicultural research.
The quality of the honey also depends on the local flora, including various varieties of indigenous eucalypts, in particular the sugar gum Eucalyptus cladacalyx, and also cup gum, cong mallee, messmate stringy-bark, peppermint box, blue gum, river red gum, pink gum, white mallee, south australian coastal mallee and narrow-leaved mallee. Other melliferous flora include the scarlet bottlebrush, native fuschsia, melaleucas, pomaderris and broom bush. Kangaroo Island Ligurian bee honey varies according to the flora from which the bees collect nectar, but perhaps the most characteristic is the delicate, light but distinctively flavoured sugar gum honey. Eucalypt honeys are medium to dark amber in colour, of medium density and full depth of flavour.
Wildflower honey, collected from flowering species of banksia, hakea, melaleucas and flowering annuals, is full-flavoured, medium to dark amber in colour and medium density. Spring flora honey, produced from various spring flowering species such as clover, lucerne, canola, capeweed and other pasture plants, is light in colour with good density and a distinctive, mild flavour.
At Granny Smith, we’ve been tasting the Kangaroo Island organic honey collected from stringybark with Irrewarra’s toasted muesli and Barambah Dairy’s organic vanilla bean and cinnamon yoghurt.