Seal of quality
Typical Food Farming Product (PAT).
According to the international regulation issued by the Codex Alimentarius F.A.O/O.M.S. Commission in 1998, honey is defined as being the “edible product that domestic bees produce from the nectar of flowers or from the secretions of the living parts of plants to be found on the same, the bees then fly onto the flowers to collect the nectar and pollen of the same which they then, transform and combine with their own specific substances and which they leave to mature inside the honeycomb of the beehive”.
The production of honey in the Cuneo zone, is as varied as the lands from which it comes. Ranging from the honey produced on the plains to that produced in the mountains from honey produced from a single flower to honey from multi-floral origins., that is produced from several blooms at the same time, from the honey obtained by collection of the nectar of plants to the honey produced from the secretions of sucking insects (such as greenfly) that feed on the sugary lymph of vegetative species (this honey being termed as being “di melata”). We shall here cite the most typical, according to the chronological order of harvesting:
- Dandelion honey is harvested in the fields of the plains at the start of the Spring. It is always of crystallized texture and of a lemon yellow colour, with an intense and ammonia aroma. It is best eaten as a snack spread on black rye bread with a little butter.
- Acacia honey is obtained through the gathering of nectar from the tree of the same name (Robinia pseudoacacia), that blossoms from early May throughout the province to a height of 800-1000 metres. It is normally liquid (unless aged or contaminated by the gathering of other honey), it is almost transparent, and has a delicate sweet aroma of vanilla and a very sweet taste.
- Chestnut honey is produced in the marginal hillside areas and in the mountains from mid June. It ha san amber hue, with an intense aroma which is the same as that of the male blossom of the chestnut tree. Its bitter aftertaste, makes it ideal to contrast the fat of cold sliced meats, and is best eaten with rye bread.
- Rhodonendron honey is a rarity as it is produced from mid June from the blooms of Alpine pastures above 1500 metres, in areas in which it is often difficult to bring the beehives. The honey is light in colour and crystallizes rapidly and has a light waxy aroma. This typical neutral feature makes it one of the best sweetening agents together with acacia honey.
- The lime tree blossoms in late June in the same areas of the chestnut, and it often acts to “pollute” the chestnut, giving a product that is aromatic but not very bitter, that beekeepers term “castiglio”. If the bees are able to collect it in its pure form it gives a golden yellow honey, with a crystalline texture which has a typical “menthol” aroma.
- Another rare variety if the honey produced from the honeydew of the fir tree, which is obtained in the woods during damp summers, when the greenfly swarm on these conifers to suck their lymph. The secretions produced by these greenfly are then collected by the bees, and used to produce a very dark honey that is liquid and viscous, with an aroma of caramel and malt, which is ideal eaten with strong cheeses, such as blue-veined cheeses to offset their bite.
- Amongst the range of multi-floral honey varieties we can site the high-mountain multi-floral variety the colour of which varies from clear to amber, which has either a liquid or fine crystalline texture. The aroma of this honey also varies in view of the fact that the Alpine flora (it being a honey produced at an altitude of over 1200 metres a.s.l.) of the Cuneo mountain zone varies greatly from one Alpine area to another according to the variation in altitude and environmental features.
- It must also be remembers that the flora of the Cuneo valleys is very varied with truly unique features and species that are unique only to this area (endemisms), and in fact there are beekeepers that offer both wild cherry honey, as well as thyme and lavender honey (cultivated in the lower Stura valley).
Area of production
Bee rearing and honey production is diffuse throughout the province of Cuneo and is of particular importance in the Roero area and in the Alpine valleys, where specialized honey production enterprises are location and where beekeeping is the main, or only source of income. It must be mentioned however that professional beekeeping is a nomadic practice, that involves the shifting of the hives in various zones according to the blossoming periods that occur at various times.
In Piedmont the “Central Association for the promotion of beekeeping in Italy ” undertakes promotional initiatives mainly through agricultural committees, amongst which those of Savigliano, Ivrea, Domodossola and Turin. It was in this latter that the “Turin Bee keeping society” was founded in 1872, which was a branch of the Milan association, which aimed to diffuse rational beekeeping practices in the area around Turin. Montà in the province of Cuneo, also bears testimony to the development of rational beekeeping through the so-called “bee houses”, which are stonework structures built in 1700-1800 consisting of niches in which to host the families in a permanent manner.
Modern nomadic practices, which allows the bees greater opportunity for nectar collection, are the la test and greatest breakthrough in rational beekeeping. The ancient practice of moving the hives by following the phenological cycle of the nectar bearing plants, which was used as early at the Egyptian and Roman times, along the courses of the Nile and Po rivers respectively, was, until the end of the last century, considered as being a valid means of enhancing the productivity levels of the highly populated colonies raised in rational beehives. (De’ Rauschenfeis, 1900). However the slowness of the means of transport and the inadequacy of the technical solutions adopted however limited the scope of such transfer which, for a long time, had to be undertaken over short distances and overcoming considerable difficulties. Examples of nomadic beekeeping being principally in certain Alpine valleys such as the Sesia and Chisone valleys where , after exploiting the spring time blossoms of the lower valleys, the hives were then shifted on the backs of mules to higher altitudes during the summer months, thereby achieving diversified productions. The data collected during the first national beekeeping survey indicate that at the beginning of the 30’s the phenomenon was still limited in relation to Piedmont, and that it mainly occurred in the province of Cuneo, where nomadic practices were undertaken between the plains and the Alpine valleys (Carlini, 1935).