Turkey is a country located to the West of Asia and Southeast of Europe. It is the second largest producer of honey in the world, and one thing stands out about Turkish honey – its Quality.
Many countries practice apiculture on a commercial scale with China leading in honey production. Turkey comes 2nd in that list, producing about 100,000 tonnes a year, but it is all about the superior quality and delicacy. Turkish honey is so high in demand that fake Turkish honey is in circulation in the black markets.
Despite the high production, it may come as a surprise that there are only about 5 beehives per square kilometers on an average in Turkey. This leads to conclusions that Turkey utilizes only 1% of its honey producing potential.
Apiculture in Turkey
Turkey is a fertile land with plentiful of honey bees, beehives and beekeepers. Turkish beekeeping is one which has been around for thousands of years.
Agriculture is a big industry in Turkey with fruits and vegetables being a major chunk of the country’s exports. Such high production in the agricultural fields is possible due to the dense population of honey bees. They thrive in the favourable climatic and landscape conditions, which in turn helps in crop pollination.
The importance of bee pollination in Turkish agriculture is highlighted by the fact that the country is establishing bee forests to stabilise and increase agricultural production. It is said that 75% of honey bee species and varieties is in Turkey.
A majority of Turkish beekeepers tend to relocate their hives throughout the year for various purposes. Among those, pollination is primary, but also to produce honey, wax, pollen and royal jelly. Although, it all depends on the season. The relocation is done in specific seasons to help in the pollination of particular, desired plants. Different seasons imply different crops for pollination in different or same landscapes. These moves also enable the bees to have full potential all year round in all facets of their use.
The crown jewel of Turkish honey is Pine honey. It is the most sought after honey with 92% of the world’s production taking place in Turkey.
Pine honey is known for its darker hue and low glucose and fructose content which gives it a lesser sweet taste and reduced bitter aroma than flower honey. It is nutritiously beneficial and is in demand for medicinal and food industries worldwide, ensuring massive export potential.
The name “Pine honey” comes from the pine trees where a type of scale insect species survive in the barks of trees. Honeybees collect honeydew from the waxy cotton which drips from the cracks in barks after secretion by the aphids.
In Turkey, the mountainous Aegean region and Muğla province are the core producing centres. Beehives are present throughout the regions, in roadsides, gardens, private backyards, and agriculture fields.
Future of Turkish Honey
The Turks recognise the huge potential that apiculture possesses, not just in agriculture but also in production of honey and other products. These have immense value in the world market, and also because Turkey has managed to carve out a reputation for being the producers of some of the best honey.
A number of research centres have come up across the country for increasing production and value-addition of honeybee products. Various foundations like TEMA Foundation are supporting the locals in producing organic honey. A vulnerable honeybee subspecies, the Caucasian honeybee (Apis mellifera caucasia), is in the process of recovery with TEMA aid.
A wide variety of honey is produced in all the 23 regions of the country. Each has a peculiar taste of its own, depending on the flower and plant types used for nectar collection.
Apart from the flower honey and pine honey, other exquisite types of honey found in Turkey are:
- Anzer honey
- Mad honey
- Elvish honey
Special: Centauri Honey
Centauri honey is the most expensive honey in the world, as was declared on 16th February, 2021 by the Guinness World Records.
This honey carries a pocket-burning price tag of €10,000/kg or about INR 8,63,000/kg.
It is very different from conventional honey, mainly because it is a cave honey. It was excavated from a Turkish cave 2,500 metres above sea level.
The nectar is dark in colour and has a bitter taste.
The bees producing this honey feed on medicinal herbs planted around the cave, which is again at high altitudes.
The production of this honey is in no way similar to commercial honey production. Beekeepers harvest Centauri honey only once a year, unlike other commercial honey harvests.
“Real honey cannot be sold in markets & shops because bees can never make tons of honey for human consumption naturally. Some say it’s an expensive honey, I call it a world treasure.”