Yesterday I wrote about a lovely honey farm called Arlo’s which is near Kelowna, British Columbia. The farm produces a variety of noms (specializing in garlic) but there is a large well-kept apiary, too. I asked beekeeper Helen if she could sell some unusual honey to me. She brought me a jar of elderberry honey.
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a small tree or large bush, depending on who is describing it. It is as tough as a weed and fairly drought-tolerant. It prefers temperate climates, is common in central Europe, but the best berry producer is the Canadian subspecies. And once established, it’s hard to remove. The native North American variety feeds migratory birds and pie-making humans. When I was a child, I tried to eat the berries, but was not impressed. My father drank the fruit – adding it to his Concord grapes to make a dark sweet wine. I’ve never seen more than a single bush or two growing in an orchard, so it’s surprising to me that there are dense groves of elderberry where enough blossoms are available to actually add up to a distinct variety of honey. But that’s part of the attraction of travelling afield and encountering unusual foods and flavours. You meet the unexpected.
The elderberry honey which I purchased at Arlo’s Honey Farm in south-central BC was darker than golden, very thick, and had a rich – but not overwhelming – taste and scent. To me, it epitomizes what most people think honey should be. Not mild like my favourite (sweet clover) but not as powerful as buckwheat honey which (to me) is almost medicinal in potency. It’s great when gobbled by the spoonful, but also very nice when drizzled on fresh peaches and blueberries. I even touched up a salad with some of the extraordinary elderberry honey.