Carrot honey is indeed unusual—unusual because domesticated carrots, Daucus carota, are a biennial crop that develop their famous taproots during the first summer of growth. When you want to grow a carrot, you buy a seed, plant it, harvest the carrot two or three months later, and never see a carrot flower. So how do you get carrot honey?
To get carrot honey you have to find a seed grower—a farmer who grows carrots for the express purpose of harvesting their seeds at the end of the plant’s second year of life. And what better place to find a seed farmer than in Oregon?
Oregon is famous for seed production. The Willamette Valley produces most of the grass seed grown in the United States, as well as seeds for many vegetables and herbs. Other parts of Oregon also grow seed, and the carrot honey I tasted came from Madras, an agricultural community in central Oregon. I’m told that carrot seed is not grown in the Willamette Valley because the crop tends to out-cross freely with wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), a plant that is plentiful in that local area.
Although carrots are readily pollinated by wild insects including bees, wasps, and various flies, vast acreages of carrot flowers need the help of honey bees or mason bees to get a reliable seed set. The bonus for the beekeeper is a crop of rare honey.
Carrot honey has a dark amber color with an aroma reminiscent of chocolate. The taste is strong with a bite to it—a sharp spike in an otherwise earthy, caramel flavor. I also detected a “grassy” aftertaste, not quite like foraging on a meadow, but something close to that. This honey would be intriguing in any recipe where you want the taste of the honey to shine through. It would also complement a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. But even if you prefer your honey straight up, don’t miss this one; it is a different experience and a must-try for your life list.
Since I was tasting while writing, I’m now seriously stuck to the keyboard—a sweet occupational hazard. While I clean up this mess you should consider giving carrot honey a try. My sample came from Flying Bee Ranch in Salem, Oregon.
Terrible! I am a beekeeper and have my own honey, but the words you used (like wine or cheese) made this carrot honey sound so intriguing and delicious which appeals to a chef like me. Argghhh!!! I don’t need to buy more honey…
There are wild carrots all over where I live but I’ve never seen a honey bee on one. Since, as the picture states, they’re closely related to the cultivated one, I wonder if they’d have a similar honey. Maybe my bees just haven’t discovered them yet.
I found some wild carrot honey imported from Italy. http://mielithun.it
Was wondering if wild carrot honey has any health benefits, like some other honeys do?
I don’t know the particulars of wild carrot honey, but all honey that is not microfiltered has micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, and other healthful components.
Interesting! Now I feel like planting an acre of carrots just for the flowers and honey. You can buy carrot seed online for anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars a pound, and apparently you only need a pound or two per acre. If you’re not interested in the roots, you could just till up some dirt, broadcast the seed by hand the way farmers used to do for wheat, and let the weeds and carrots grow. I hypothesize that the weeds wouldn’t keep the carrots from blooming their second year, although they would stunt their growth. And at worst, your bees can get honey from the weeds.
I buy carrot honey from a farm in northern Oregon. I had no idea it’s rare, though the reason makes sense, an it also makes the price make more sense. It’s a good bit more expensive, but is wonderful in the strong pfefferneuse I make every November. This honey isn’t so good in recipes with a lot of delicate flavors, but if you have something substantial, like my family pfefferneuse, which has, among other things, black pepper and strong coffee, give it a go! Also in plain yogurt.
I didn’t get the grassy aftertaste, though.
Everything I have recently read about “wild carrots” aka Queen Anne’s Lace suggests honey bees aren’t particularly fond of it, even though it’s in full bloom right now here in Olympia WA. Other comments also suggest that is one of the last things you want your honey bees to get excited about. Apparently the words “body odor” and Queen Anne’s Lace honey are synonymous. BUT that said, Rusty, any recommended suppliers for carrots grown specific for carrot nectar to honey?
I don’t know anyone who grows carrots specifically for honey. But down in central Oregon, in the Madras area, there are miles and miles of carrot farms. As you drive along Route 26 in early summer, you can see all the bee hives lined up along the road. That’s where carrot honey usually comes from, and I assume those farmers would know which cultivars yield the most honey.
Thanks for the article. I came across a small jar of carrot honey at a farm selling their own raw honey yesterday. I bought it thinking it would be nice to try.
My adult daughter and I had a spoonful later that night and we liked it and it does taste quite different. I felt that it had a tang to it with the sweetness and these interesting flavours after it, which went together quite well, but I am no taste connoisseur as you can see by what I just wrote LOL.
Interestingly though my adult daughter said to me when we were trying to describe one of the flavours “It reminds me of when I was a little kid rolling around in the grass in our backyard and you accidentally got a bit of the brown grass in your mouth. It tastes like that dead grass”.
Then we googled “honey made from carrot flowers and found this website and upon reading your article above we started laughing with the reference to the grass taste. My daughter obviously inherited her tasting abilities from her father and not me LOL.
Thank you for an interesting article I will explore the rest of your website. Around here we like the Tamar Valley gumtree honey and some of the prickly box honey is good & the bush honey. Leatherwood honey is quite popular in Tasmania however I find that too florally overpowering.
All the best to you.
That is really funny about the grass. To me, it is really difficult to describe flavors, so I can only compare them to other things I’ve tasted.