Carrot honey . . . really!
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.