Local foodSicilian Black Bees and their honey
Small honey producers in Sicily
We would like to say thank you to “il Nettare degli Erei” and Apicultura Carlo Amodeo for providing us with all the images you see in this article. Supporting small producers who are devoted to making unique local honey is always a good idea!
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There are dark, grey, or even totally black bees, right in Italy. They are morphologically similar to African black bees (from which they differ however for the lower aggressiveness): which in DNA have an African genetic myotype. The Sicilian black bee (Apis mellifera siciliana) has a very dark abdomen, a yellowish hair, and the wings are smaller. These bees have populated Sicily for millennia. They were kept by beekeepers until the 1970s when they were abandoned due to this breed major problem, consanguinity. This complication can lead to genetic disorders, therefore Sicilian beekeepers replaced the ferula wood clews (the parallelepiped-shaped boxes used as hives) and began to import ligustica bees from Northern Italy.
Carlo Amodeo found three surviving genetic lines and helped the black bee prosper again. To this day he is still the only beekeeper registered in the National Register as a pure Sicilian bee breeder.
However, there are eight beekeepers who work with the Sicilian black bees. like “il Nettare degli Erei” who looks after both native Sicilian black and Italian ligustica bees.
The black sicula also develops the brood early between December and January, thus avoiding the block of the winter brood common to the other species, and consumes less honey than the other bees. The Sicilian black bee honey is not different, from the organoleptic point of view, from that produced with bees of other breeds.
The Sicilian black bee and local food
This marvelous local honey is widely used also in many typical Sicilian recipes. For example, honey cookies like “pupi di miele”, what a treat! Another historical speciality is “rice zeppole”. They are one of the many versions of pancakes. They were invented by the nuns of a Benedectine Monastery in the 16th century.
The tradition of using honey in many Sicilian recipes has really ancient roots!
Properties of honey produced by Sicilian black bees
The nectar produced by the Sicilian black bees (Apis mellifera sicula) has antioxidants in quantities three to ten times higher than any other honey, but also thirteen antibacterial and four antifungal substances, the latter never found in other honey.
The antioxidant properties, identified as content in polyphenols (phenols and flavonoids) and as antioxidant activity (DPPH scavenging and FRAP tests), reflect what has been found in other honey studies. For example, the antimicrobial activity of loquat and almond honey was 2-3 times higher than in other kinds of honey.
How much honey can be produced and at what temperature?
The Sicilian bee has no preconceived schemes, that is, in the presence of blooms even in winter, it behaves as if it were spring, that is, it fills the nest with brood and goes up to the melario. It is therefore excellent for the production of winter honey: Carob tree (November), Nespolo (November and December) and Mandorlo (February-March).
The great biodiversity of the Sicilian flora allows us foraging and consequent production of more than twenty types of monofloral honey.
Advice on how to spend some spectacular days in the Sicilian black bee country
Here are some tips to visit the main area of Sicilian black bees honey: Carini near Palermo.
Many people wonder when is the best time to visit Palermo and Sicily.
However, some distinctions must be made, because if in these parts the climate is mild all year round, it is one thing to go on vacation to visit and enjoy a few days at the beach and another is instead to go just to admire the most beautiful places.
For a beach holiday, surely the best months are June (until the middle of the month) and September.
In the central months such as July and August there is a risk of finding a large influx of tourists, both in the beaches and in the structures and various monuments that you want to visit. Not to mention that in the high season the rates are obviously higher, both as regards travel and accommodation. In June and September, the temperatures are optimal and there is no risk of dying of heat, so without a doubt these are the best months.
For those who are interested in visiting Palermo without going to the beach, things change considerably. In this case the best seasons are spring and autumn: the temperatures are still very mild so you are perfectly well and you can enjoy all the monuments and museums without crowds of visitors. In summer, of course, all of Sicily is much more populated by tourists and this is not only true for the beaches but also for the cities of historical and artistic interest.
We have to mention that the 100% made in Sicily golden nectar, is even more valuable and nutritious than the New Zealand Manuka honey, famous worldwide for its properties.
Sweet and velvety, it is also a real boost of beneficial antioxidants and antifungal properties.
What to see in Sicily in Palermo?
It is a wonderful city, full of monuments, churches and works of art, battered by serious social problems that have dragged on for a long time. Too much. An obvious contradiction which, however, ends up being a further reason for charm since the material difficulties have never called into question the sense of community and attachment to one’s land.
There are plenty of local farmers in the area who get busy and grow and breed fantastic Sicilian black bees producing the best honey in the world.
To be seen:
The Cathedral of Palermo
It is almost a perfect compendium of the city’s thousand-year history. First early Christian basilica; then mosque, in the context of the long Arab domination; finally again church with the Normans. As for style, Ferdinando Fuga, architect at the court of Charles of Bourbon in the second half of the 18th century, imposed a decisive neo-classical vein on the building, greatly reducing the previous Arab-Norman, Gothic and Baroque imprints. However, not all has been lost. Traces of the previous styles are evident in the main apse (Arab-Norman), in the main entrance portal (Gothic) and, again, in the dome (Baroque). A mixture of styles that does not leave indifferent, and to which are added the royal tombs, including the sarcophagus of Frederick II and, above all, the tomb of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of the city.
The city market
The key word is to live the market and eat local, an expression that refers to the boisterous calls of the sellers of the markets of Palermo. A sui generis advertising language full of allusions and metaphors, functional to the sale of the products on display. In short, a liturgy that is repeated daily in the three largest markets of the city: the “Vucciria”, “Ballarò” and the “Capo”. Visiting these places is an essential exercise to deepen the “genius loci” of the Sicilian capital where the influences of the long Arab domination are still evident. Traces that refer to the terms used to attract buyers, but also to the ability of the markets to welcome non-EU citizens who in recent years have opened shops alongside historical activities. In short, the kebab with crocchè and arancine. In a word: Mediterranean.
Eat street food: there are not only crocché and arancine
Palermo is the Italian capital of street food, complete with a dedicated event in the year of the Expo. The spleen sandwich (meusa), the sfincione (soft focaccia with tomato and caciocavallo), the veal casings (stigghione), the fried schiacciatine with chickpea flour (panelle) deserve to be eaten at least once in a lifetime. It’s not just food. It is much more. It is popular culture from which, if you want, you can go back to the history of the city, to the French, Spanish, Arab influences and to the way they then poured into traditional dishes.
Local culture is a combination of emotions together with local food and honey produced by Sicilian and non-Sicilian farmers.
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