Have you ever tasted bitter honey? I know it may sound strange but it really exists and it comes from the Arbutus tree.

Where can you find it?

Arbutus honey is a particular type of honey produced by bees that feed on the pollen of the Arbutus flower, also called Strawberry Tree, because its fruits look like strawberries in shape and color. This plant is typical of the Mediterranean and widespread especially in Greece, Italy and Portugal. 

This special honey typical of the Mediterranean region has a dark color and bitter caramel taste. The peculiar taste of Arbutus honey might surprise you but its benefits will leave you speechless.

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Arbutus Tree and its fruits: the color and the shape of the fruits give the name “Strawberry Tree” for their resemblance with strawberries.

Beneficial properties 

The beneficial properties of this “bitter” honey are in fact amazing. It contains homogentisic acid, which “represents a main phenolic constituent and serves as a marker of botanical origin of strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.) honey, which is owing to various beneficial health effects has been for centuries used as a traditional medicine in the Mediterranean region”1. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of honey are already well known, but thanks to its components, Arbutus honey is considered to be the one with the most powerful benefits.

Arbutus Honey
Our (dark) Arbutus honey, produced in the region of Peloponnese, Southern Greece.

Here’s the 4 main benefits:

  1. It boosts the immune system being a source of Vitamin C. The high presence of antioxidants makes it the best ally against free radicals in the body too.
  2. It increases energy levels without over increasing the sugar level in the blood. For this reason it is also recommended as an alternative to sugar or even normal honey for people with diabetes or anyone who wants a healthier option than sugar.
  3. Consumed raw on its own, it helps with sore throat and infections of the oral cavity. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties help with the recovery from inflammation or infections. Remember, nothing can substitute medical therapy if needed.  
  4. It gives relief when struggling with digestive issues. It is in fact rich in probiotics as well, which can help reduce the inflammation of the intestines.

How to use it in the kitchen

Thanks to its peculiar taste, you can also use Arbutus honey in the preparation of your savory dishes to add a bitter sweet note. Here’s an easy recipe you can experiment with!

For this recipe we will mix Greek and Cypriot flavors to get the perfect taste. As you might already know, Halloumi cheese is one of the most famous pillars of Cypriot cuisine. Fried, grilled, marinated, Halloumi cheese is such a versatile ingredient. Slightly salty and hard when raw, it becomes soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside when you cook it, creating a delicious golden crust.  We will pair it with our Greek Arbutus Honey in an easy recipe full of flavor!

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Raw Halloumi cheese.

What you need:

Start by rinsing the Halloumi cheese with abundant water to take away some of the saltiness. Dry it well, cut it in slices (not too thin) and then leave it aside for a moment. In a pan, heat up some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, chop the garlic finely removing the center, then add it to the pan along with the dried chili and the dried mint. Leave to fry until the garlic becomes golden but pay attention not to burn it. Add the Halloumi slices and when they start to get soft add 2 spoons of Arbutus honey. The honey will melt creating a delicious sauce. Let fry each side until golden and then serve. If you like, you can add some drops of lemon juice on top.

1 Homogentisic acid, a main phenolic constituent of strawberry tree honey, protects human peripheral blood lymphocytes against irinotecan-induced cytogenetic damage in vitro – Andreja Jurič, Irena Brčić Karačonji, Nevenka Kopjar – Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb, Croatia Faculty of Health Studies, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia.

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