THE HONEY-SNOB'S CORNER: AN ATTEMPT TO
DOCUMENT THE WORLD'S HIGHEST VISCOSITY HONEY(!)
Ever since my earliest days on upper Oak Pass Rd. during the 1940's-50's (see
Growing Up Wild in Beverly Hills
), I have been an avid investigator (and consumer!) of all locally available honeys, in every district where I have lived for any length of time. One of my top priority projects, upon moving to any new location, has always been to seek out the nearest resident beekeeper(s) and sample all of the locally-produced honeys that they are offering - particularly the more distinctive “plant-specific” flavors, as well as the various complex natural blends (which can vary somewhat by year and location). In coastal southern California, my personal (specific) favorites were from the local sages (Salvia
spp.), the dark reddish and intensely flavored native wild buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum
), and the (cultivated) fragrant citrus honeys - all of which were widely
available in the 1940's-50's, and not expensive. Our primary local suppliers, during this time period, were early neighbors on Oak Pass Rd. - the writer, Nelle Kennedy Stowell, and the high school biology teacher, Paul W. Colburn (original settler at 9626 Oak Pass), both of whom always kept bees. Twenty years later (1958-63), when we moved inland to the edge of the Mojave Desert near Valyermo (north slopes of the San Gabriel Mts.), there were many other superb and complex natural blends waiting to be discovered - these derived from the vast array of native shrubs and wildflowers which then grew throughout the entire district (Ross Honey Co., south of Bob's Gap, was our nearest local source)....But all of the above were just preparing me for the sensational explosion of new (to me) honey flavors, textures, and colors which I would be encountering all across southern and Western Australia over the next 14 years (1965-1978).
There was a marvellous specialty honey-shop in one of the city arcades of Adelaide, not far from the South Australian Museum (where I was employed from 1965-1970), which I frequented with great regularity. They offered samples (free for tasting!) of all the locally available (and some interstate or imported) honeys, displayed in several racks of sample dispensers-jars, each labelled with the plant name where known - a rare additional treat for anyone with botanical interests! But, to obtain what I considered the most distinctive South Australian honey (and also one of the best from the ADELAIDE region), I had to travel north to my favorite beekeeper, John Masterman of Undalya (near Clare, S.AUST.), whose wife (Mervinia) was the local Post Mistress, and had a hobby of creating exquisite watercolors of the native flora in bloom (folder upon folder of them). [I would like to know what ever became of these....].
John had a friend over on the Eyre Peninsula (north of Port Lincoln, S.AUST., to the north and west of Adelaide), who owned a large farming property out in “The Bush”. On a certain undisturbed part of this land, where all of the environmental conditions were ideal for it, there grew vast numbers (nearly a “pure” colony) of the so-called native “cranberry”, Astroloma humifusum
(Cav.) R.Br. [not to be confused with the ericaceous Vaccinium macrocarpon
Aiton, the commercial cranberry of North America; nor was this the myrtaceous
, which is also called “native cranberry”, in southeastern Australia]. A. humifusum
is a woody, low-growing (and slow-growing!) member of the large austral family Epacridaceae (the heaths), along with various other related species in the genera Astroloma
, etc. ....The honey made from A. humifusum
was of a unique and most peculiar texture/consistency, quite unlike any other honey that I have ever encountered elsewhere on the planet! It very well may have the highest viscosity of any known honey(??).... This incredible viscosity can be amusingly tested and demonstrated in the following manner:
(1) Dip a spoon deeply into a container of this honey, and it will strongly pull back on the spoon upon lifting (almost rubbery)! But the “extended test” (which I always delighted in performing for anyone who entered my kitchen at Blackwood), was to place the honey-tin upon the floor, with a sturdy chair standing nearby.
(2) Digging deeply into the honey with a large spoon, I would SLOWLY lift the (ever-lengthening) attached thread of honey upward, as high above the floor as I could possibly reach while standing upright, with my arm raised high above my head, and there would be NO BREAK in the thread that trailed back down to the tin on the floor! (But we are not done yet!)....
(3) I would then (while still holding my arm upraised) hop up onto the seat of the nearby chair, in order to reach even higher, with the spoon continuing to trail the single honey-thread clear back down into the tin upon the floor....And still, there would be NO BREAK in the original thread, now at least 8 feet in length!! (It is conceivable that it could have been (?) stretched even more, but I never tried a ladder!) This phenomenon could be demonstrated at various indoor temperatures, ranging from warm to rather chilly (usually, it was the latter in my unheated flat). The color of this honey was of a medium reddish-brown (but not as intensely dark reddish as the native Californian wild buckwheat honey); the flavor was rich and complex. But one nearly had to chew it to overcome the rubbery consistency - quite a peculiar sensation for any widely experienced honey-snob! Another characteristic: In storage, this honey nicely maintained its original smooth, flexible/rubbery consistency for many weeks; in fact, I don't recall ever seeing it crystallize or granulate during storage. But then again, it rarely sat around for any great length of time in my household!....
If such a being as a “honey-chemist” exists, it could be of great interest for him/her to obtain and thoroughly analyze a “pure” (as possible) undiluted/unheated sample of this specific honey, in order to ascertain its exact chemical and physical characteristics - to compare, for example, with other more “normal” honeys....And, good luck trying to find any extensive colonies of Astroloma humifusum today. As this interesting and humble little plant is not one of the “charismatic megaflora”, I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn that so-called “progress” has long since wiped them out, in many (most ?) of the locations where formerly (half a century ago) they may have grown in greater abundance. This is a rather obscure ground-hugging (mat-like) perennial heath, no doubt essentially invisible (and completely meaningless) to the “developers” and their one-track bulldozer zombies, programmed for only one function - to scrape the land bare........
During our seven years of residence near GERALDTON (1972-78), Syd Jupp (then of 13 Trigg St.), was my primary source for a wonderful selection of locally available Western Australian honeys - but nothing quite like the South Australian “native cranberry” was ever encountered there. Cliff Royce of Howatharra (19 mi. NNE. of Geraldton), also supplied us with various superb natural honey-blends, direct from the great collection of native wildflowers growing on or near his farming property at “Windermere”, just west of our former HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE.
Required reading, for ALL aspiring honey-snobs, is a fascinating recent book by Grace Pundyk (2008) - THE HONEY SPINNER: On the Trail of Ancient Honey, Vanishing Bees, & the Politics of Liquid Gold, published by Murdoch Books (Pier 9), Australia/U.K. (388 pp., paper). ISBN: 9781-741960884. [I wish to thank Paddie, “The Feral Ladybird” (of N.Queensland), for sending me a copy of this charming book!] Apparently, native cranberry honey (Astroloma humifusum) was never encountered by Ms. Pundyk, in her Australian travels (pp.52-109), which is why I have gone into some detail above, specifically to draw attention to the existence of this utterly unique honey....See also pp.352-54 in the Australian “Portraits---” book, (McF. 1988), illustrating a geometrid moth life history (my G.144), that was closely linked to the remnant colonies of native cranberry which were (still are ??) growing in the hills south of Adelaide (specifically, in the NW. quadrant of Belair Recreational Park), during the 1960's....
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Amelora petrochroa
Chapter 2 - Arhodia lasiocamparia
Chapter 3 - Arhodia retractaria
Chapter 4 - Boarmia cognata
Chapter 5 - Boarmia sausaria
Chapter 6 - Capusa cuculloides
Chapter 7 - Chlenias gonosema
Chapter 8 - Chlenias stenosticha
Chapter 9 - Chlenias zonaea
Chapter 10 - Ciampa arietaria
Chapter 11 - Corula spodochroa
Chapter 12 - Cycloprorodes melanoxysta
Chapter 13 - Dichromodes sp.
Chapter 14 - Dinophalus drakei
Chapter 15 - Dinophalus (?)serpentaria
Chapter 16 - Ectropis excursaria
Chapter 17 - Fisera eribola
Chapter 18 - Fisera (?)perplexata
Chapter 19 - Gastrinopa xylistis
Chapter 20 - Hypographa sp.
Chapter 21 - Idiodes apicata
Chapter 22 - Lophothalaina habrocosma
Chapter 23 - Melanodes anthracitaria
Chapter 24 - "Metrocampa" ada
Chapter 25 - "Metrocampa" biplaga
Chapter 26 - Mnesampela comarcha
Chapter 27 - "Mnesampela" fucata
Chapter 28 - Mnesampela privata
Chapter 29 - Monoctenia falernaria
Chapter 30 - Monoctenia smerintharia
Chapter 31 - Niceteria macrocosma, Nisista
Chapter 32 - Oenochroma vinaria
Chapter 33 - Onychopsis lutosaria
Chapter 34 - Paralaea ochrosoma
Chapter 35 - Phallaria ophiusaria, Phelotis, Plesanemma
Chapter 36 - Rhynchopsota rhyncophora
Chapter 37 - "Smyriodes" notodontaria
Chapter 38 - "Smyriodes" serrata, Stenoteras
Chapter 39 - Stibaroma melanotoxa
Chapter 40 - "Stibaroma" trigramma
Chapter 41 - Symmetroctena (?)exprimataria, Symmetroctena sp.
Chapter 42 - Thalaina angulosa
Chapter 43 - Thalaina clara
Chapter 44 - Thalaina macfarlandi
Chapter 45 - Thalaina selenaea
Chapter 46 - Xantholepidote leucaniata
Chapter 47 - Austroterpna idiographa
Chapter 48 - Austroterpna paratorna
Chapter 49 - Crypsiphona ocultaria
Chapter 50 - Cyneoterpna wilsoni
Chapter 51 - Heliomystis electrica
Chapter 52 - Hypobabpta eugramma
Chapter 53 - Hypobabpta percomptaria
Chapter 54 - Lophothorax eremnopis
Chapter 55 - Sterictopsis argyraspis
Chapter 56 - Aeolochroma sp. nov.
Chapter 57 - Chlorocoma (?)assimilis
Chapter 58 - Chlorocoma carenaria
Chapter 59 - Chlorocoma externa
Chapter 60 - Chlorocoma halochlora
Chapter 61 - Chlorocoma melocrossa
Chapter 62 - Chlorocoma vertumnaria
Chapter 63 - Eucyclodes buprestaria
Chapter 64 - Euloxia fugitivaria
Chapter 65 - Euloxia meracula
Chapter 66 - Gelasma semicrocea
Chapter 67 - Prasinocyma ocyptera
Chapter 68 - "Horisme" sp. (?)
Chapter 69 - Poecilasthena pulchraria
Chapter 70 - Xanthorhoe actinipha
Chapter 71 - Xanthorhoe vicissata
Chapter 72 - Idaea philocosma
Stilbopterid Life History
THE HONEY-SNOB'S CORNER