Of all our honeys, the last crop of the season - made in hives dotted around the upland heaths around Wildboarclough, Gradbach and Shuttlingsloe – is the most distinctive. Some 80% of the heather honey sold across Europe is produced in the UK – much of it either in the Scottish Highlands or here in the Peak District.
By the middle of August, the moors come to life with vibrant purple heather. Irrepressible in the face of wet and wild weather, heather is an important habitat and food source for ground nesting birds, grazing animals and insects. While its stalks are tough and wiry, forming a thick carpet over the peat bogs beneath, in contrast the tiny pink and purple flowers of ling heather are delicate and attractive – not least to bees!
For our beekeeper, Paul, there’s something magical about collecting the heather honey – often the only human for miles and miles in any direction and, perhaps, the only person in the world harvesting this very British crop at that particular moment.
A deep amber colour, heather honey has a unique texture as it is thixotropic – meaning it goes runny when you stir it. It’s also, like many dark honeys, particularly high in antioxidants. The taste is just as distinctive. It’s complex, aromatic and not too sweet – and combines smoky, warm, woody and floral notes in a flavour as intense and unrefined as the moorlands it comes from.
Try it… with blue or smoked cheese or to sweeten a strong black coffee. The flavour goes particularly well with whisky and also with ginger and a little pot of neat heather honey makes a great dip for sweet biscuits such as gingerbread. If you want to spread it on toast or bread – we think sourdough goes especially well but we haven’t yet found a bread product that isn’t improved with a generous dollop of heather honey!