I thought pigs would fly before I ever tasted purple honey. But here’s the funny thing: last week a small jar of the precious liquid arrived in my mailbox, compliments of Flying Pig Apiary in Durham, North Carolina. So either I was wrong or it’s time to wear pig shields!
A week earlier beekeeper Michael Morrissey left a comment on one of my previous posts about purple honey. In that post I speculate on the source of purple honey, and why it seems to appear only in the southeast in especially dry years. Everyone seems to disagree on the source, but many people have seen small amounts of it on rare occasions. The very idea of purple honey enchants honey lovers, and I get dozens of emails every year from people wanting to know where they can buy it.
Found by accident
It turns out that Michael sent his honey frames to Matt at Hawfield’s Honey House in Mebane, North Carolina. Matt does extractions for local beekeepers, and while he was working on Michael’s order he discovered a few frames of purple honey. He took the time to separate those frames, photograph them, and extract the honey separately. How incredibly thoughtful!
In his comment to me, Michael wrote that he did indeed have purple honey and he had photographs to prove it. He said, “We extracted about 2 liters of deep purple honey from one hive last week, here in a rural part of Durham, NC. It has the color of blackberry syrup (not blue Kool-Aid) and has a nice, slightly sour, berry flavor to it.”
The color varies
When I hold the jar up to the sun, it looks like deep red wine, but when I place it in front of a high-intensity LED, it looks eerily purple. From that experiment, I suspect that the colors people describe are at least partly due to the light source. Other variables that could affect both the taste and the color include the other nectars mixed with it, as well as the soil and climate of the region where the plants grow.
I tried to photograph the pollen, but I didn’t find very much, so I suspect a fairly fine filter was used. I certainly didn’t find enough to get a pollen identification. Too bad because I would still really love to know where this stuff comes from.
It even tastes purple
To my untrained palate, the honey really does taste purple, in a grape-y sort of way. It’s a pleasant flavor, sweet and carefree. My husband also thought it tasted like grapes or berries.
So there you have it. This was an exciting experience for me because I’ve heard so much about purple honey in the past. If anyone knows for sure what plant actually produces the nectar, I can’t wait to hear from you. And Michael, thank you so much!
Note: See the follow-up to this post “Kudzu and the scent of Kool-Aid.”
Honey Bee Suite