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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » May 28, 2013
Regional and Traditional Products
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Podkarpacie Honeydew Honey (podkarpacki miód spadziowy)
May 28, 2013   
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Produced by traditional apiaries, or bee yards, Podkarpacie honeydew honey is made from the honeydew that bees collect from the European silver fir tree. This top-quality product has been on the EU’s protected designation of origin list since August 2010.

The EU-protected honey has a special spicy flavor and delicate, sweetish, typically resinous aroma. Honeydew gives the product its unique color: dark brown with greenish reflections. Podkarpacie honeydew honey is a one-of-a-kind product strongly connected with the area where it is produced: 17 forestry districts in the southern region of Poland called Podkarpacie and two national parks, the Bieszczadzki and the Magurski. This area is rich in coniferous forests including the European silver fir. Honey production based on the fir species present in the region has continued without interruption for many centuries.

Forest beekeeping in Podkarpacie has a long tradition. The right natural conditions enabled beekeeping to develop. The first mentions of forest beekeeping in Podkarpacie come from the 15th century. In 1464 in Dębowiec, a small town near Jasło, the many kinds of fees paid by the inhabitants also included a honey tax. More proof of how well-developed forest beekeeping was in Podkarpacie is found in the forest beekeeping statutes, which are among the oldest in Poland. The 1478 statute for forest beekeepers from Łańcut, Kańczuga and Tyczyn and the Biecz statute of 1538 regulated the forest beekeeping economy in great detail.

Honey and wax production reached much further afield than the local market and accounted for a sizable share of the goods exported from the region northwards through Cracow.

Podkarpacie honeydew honey owes its special qualities to the natural environment at its place of origin. Besides a few exceptions, the soil there is fairly barren, mostly of class IV and V. It is mainly brown soil, mostly lixiviated, and podsol, both dusty and loamy. There are small areas of marshy soil and fen soil in the region’s southern part.

The soil and the elevation of the terrain (the Carpathian Foothills range in height from 350 to 600 meters above sea level, while the Beskid Niski and Bieszczady ranges can reach up to 850 meters above sea level) creates very good conditions for coniferous trees to grow, especially the European silver fir (Abies Alba). Apart from two national parks, the region includes 15 nature reserves, one of their main purposes being to protect existing silver fir forests.

Podkarpacie honeydew honey was “discovered” as an export product in the 1950s, when Western European countries became interested in honey made from coniferous honeydew and paid two or three times more for it than for nectar honey. A breakthrough came in 1967 when over 1,000 metric tons of forest honeydew was gathered in Podkarpacie. That was when interest revived in the oldest beekeeping “feeding ground”—forests that supplied bees with the sweet substance called honeydew. In 1969, a beekeeping research unit was set up at the Regional Experimental Station in Boguchwała near Rzeszów. It was tasked with organizing bee migrations to the forests where honeydew was found. The location was chosen because of the large amounts of top-quality honeydew in the surrounding forests.

Podkarpacie’s beekeeping industry involves a large number of beekeepers (around 3,000) who collect honey in the traditional way dating back centuries. Local beekeepers are greatly skilled in and committed to preserving traditional apiary management closely connected with this region. These skills involve choosing the location for apiaries (especially in view of the amount of honeydew available, which fluctuates over time, and the shape of the terrain), gathering the unique honey as well as storing and packaging the end product.
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