from blooming heather, honey is one of the first things North Germans tend
to associate with the Lunenburg Heath
(Low SaxonLüünborger Heid’ or Lüünborger Heiloh, GermanLüneburger Heide). Heidehonig (Low Saxon Hei(d’)honnig) — meaning “heath honey” or “heather honey ”) — is for many an almost magical word, because this type of honey is reputed to
be of particularly high quality.
beehives at the Heath town
of Schneverdingen (Low Saxon Snevern)
(Courtesy Nikanos and Wikimedia
It’s really a matter of taste and preference. Heath honey has
a fairly strong and distinctly herbal flavor. Its water content tends to
be higher than that of other types of honey. Its color tends to be reddish
dark amber. Particularly high protein content makes its consistency almost
There are regional differences, depending on soil conditions and on predominance
of derivation from either true heather (Calluna vulgaris) or cross-leaved heather (Erica tetralix). Lower-lying areas tend to have more true heather, higher-lying ones more
cross-leaved heather or a mixture of both. True heather tends to start blooming
earlier than cross-leaved heather,
with the middle
of July. So timing is another factor.
various Indo-European languages, names for “honey” and for “mead” (an ancient type of honey wine) tend to be related, such as miel for “honey” in French and Spanish, mel in Latin and Portuguese, miele in Italian, мёд (myod) in Russian, miód in Polish, medus in Lithuanian, μέλι (méli) in Greek, mjalti in Albanian, mil in Scottish Gaelic, mêl in Welsh, and madhu in Sanskrit and other Indo-Aryan languages. Many other languages adopted such
words by way of contact, such as Hungarianméz, Indonesianmadhu and Javanesemadu. The extinct Indo-European Tocharian language of Eastern Turkestan
(now under Chinese rule) has mit for “honey,” and this may well be the origin of the Chinese word mì (Middle Chinese *myit) for the same thing. Related words became the names for the honey drinks in
Germanic languages, only Gothic retaining milip for “honey.” The word “honey” and its Germanic relatives are by some believed to refer to the golden color
of the substance (IE *kĕnko’;yellowish brown’).
If you are particular about all this just ask
where the honey for sale was produced and if it is derived mostly from true
heather (German Heidekraut or Besenheide, Low Saxon Hei(d’)kruud or brune Heid’) or cross-leaved heather (German Glockenheide or Erika, Low Saxon Klockenheid’, Heidbloom or Doppheid’). Well, some vendors may actually know the answers, especially those that are
beekeepers themselves or are in contact with the producers.
A bit of romanticism may come into this heath honey thing as well,
for North Germans love their Heath and associate with it unspoiled
nature, clean air and a relaxed, old-time lifestyle.
They love visiting the Heath’s nature reserve park, especially when the heather is in bloom. Then they will
park their cars or arrive in tour buses, go
hiking or take horse-and-buggy sightseeing rides. (For many people, especially
seniors, in and around Hamburg it is a seasonal must up there with viewing
apple blossoms in
much like viewing cherry blossoms, fall foliage and chrysanthemums
are a must for people in Japan.) At the periphery of the park or anywhere in
the inhabited regions of the Heath the sightseers
Decorative heather wreaths, buckwheat torte and heath honey
spring to mind first. They are offered for sale everywhere.
True heather (Calluna vulgaris,
left) and cross-leaved heather
(Erica tetralix, right)
(Courtesy :Bdk: and Christian
Fischer at Wikimedia Commons)
If honey is your thing and you tour
for the German word “Heidehonig” on signs at shops, restaurants, apiaries and anywhere else along the way. Many
heath farmers keep bees and sell their honey as a sideline. Yes, you
can buy heath honey elsewhere too. But taking it home directly from the
as a gift, is much more fun and is probably more meaningful to most, especially
if it is freshly produced small-production honey. It feels more like “the real thing.” Well, and it is, isn’t it?
If you are keen on trying heath honey but live outside Europe and can’t visit the Heath yourself, also don’t know anyone that could bring you some back from
a trip, you could visit your nearest German or European (“Continental”) delicatessen shop or look online
for a business that will ship the honey to you.