Ironwort Honey

Ark of taste
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Sideritis syriaca, or ironwort, is a perennial plant with a wooden stem that is about 40 cm tall. The leaves are oblanceolate-spatulate (pointed at the base with a rounded end). The plant blooms between May and July, producing hermaphroditic flowers that have a yellow corolla of petals. This species is native to eastern Mediterranean countries: Albania, Syria, Turkey, and Greece (including Crete). In Italy the plant is found in the following regions: Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily (on the Madonie islands). The plant grows at an altitude of between 1500 and 1900 meters, in scrubland or Mediterranean grasslands, preferring well-draining, chalky or sandy soil with good exposure to the sun. In Greece it is used to prepare a tea called tsai vounìsio, or mountain tea. It is also used in Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, while in English it is known as shepherd’s tea. This plant can be used to make decongestion infusions: it is great treatment for sinus infections, colds, coughs, and is also a very good source of iron. Sideritis syriaca is extremely widespread in the mountains of the Abruzzo region, thanks to their chalky soil, especially along the Sirente mountain chain (on the Marsicano side) and along the Gran Sasso (on the slope looking down on Aquila). Here the plant grows at an altitude between 900 and 1300 meters and the plant blooms between May and July here as well.   The same beneficial and herbal characteristics are found in the honey as well, though its production is consistently possible only in the Abruzzo region, thanks to the climate and geographical conditions that allow the flowers to bloom abundantly. The beehives found on difficult to reach mountain slopes produce extremely clear honey, with hints of flowers in the scent and taste that are not characteristic. It is, however, quite a peculiar honey, tied as it is to the Mediterranean and mountain regions and much appreciated for its interesting characteristics by honey lovers. Production of this honey as a mono-floral product takes place especially in Abruzzo, though it can only be made occasionally due to the difficulty of the blooming that happens between August and September, which in the mountains makes it difficult for the bees to fly from flower to flower. Even though it is also found elsewhere, in other Mediterranean countries, this honey is sold as a mono-floral product. A few quintals can be produced in a good season. Still, production is limited to small areas and the bees are not always active when blooming occurs. This honey is thus not produced every year. The difficulty in its production lies in the particular and difficult conditions in which this plant grows. For beekeepers it is difficult to position the beehives in such difficult to reach places. They therefore often choose to place the hives in easier to reach places where, unfortunately, these plants do not grow. 

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Nominated by:Giorgio Davini