Elderberry Honey

Arlo's Honey Farm, Kelowna, British Columbia

Arlo’s Honey Farm, Kelowna, British Columbia

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 in blossom

Elderberry in blossom

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.

Elderberry fruit: ripe for wine, berry pie, or nibbles for birds and bears

Elderberry fruit: ripe for wine, berry pie, or nibbles for birds and bears

Elderberry HoneyThe 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.

elderberry honey and salad

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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