Heathers (Erica sp.) predominate in the flora of the mountainous region of Barroso, in the north of the country, and “provide a good development of bee colonies”, explains Albano Álvares, CAPOLIB’s president - Cooperativa Agro Rural de Boticas, giving rise to darker honey than usual.
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Texto de Patrícia Serrado
Fotografias de Vânia Rodrigues
Heathers (Erica sp.) predominate in the flora of the mountainous region of Barroso, in the north of the country, and “provide a good development of bee colonies”, explains Albano Álvares, CAPOLIB’s president - Cooperativa Agro Rural de Boticas, giving rise to darker honey than usual. In this case, it is the Barroso Honey PDO produced only by Apis melífera iberiensis. Besides, “there is only Barroso Honey PDO of heather”.
The bees “are all of the species Apis melífera iberiensis. In fact, it is one of the conditions mentioned in our specification, the fact that Barroso Honey PDO can only be produced by this species”. Albano Álvares talks about the bees used in this product made in Barroso, a natural territory preserved by good agricultural practices that merge with the preservation of the environment, maintaining respect for the ecosystem, “a fact that led FAO distinguishing the Barros region as World Agricultural Heritage”, reinforces the CAPOLIB’s president. The geographical production area covers the municipalities of Boticas, Chaves, Montalegre, Vila Pouca de Aguiar “and two parishes in the municipality of Murça, Jou and Valongo dos Milhais”.
The landscape almost untouched by man and the pure air felt in these highlands bring together “the natural conditions necessary for the good development of bee colonies and the production of honey with excellent quality”. For this reason, hives are installed in the highest areas of the Barroso region. “When choosing a location for setting up a beehive, the beekeeper takes into account the abundance of bee flora, especially the predominance of Ericaceae in the area, to the detriment of other species”, explains Albano Álvares. This is the only way to ensure that honey has “a percentage in heather pollen grains greater than 45%”, that is, there is only Mel de Barroso DOP of Ericaceae.
Other important aspects when installing the hives are the abundance of existing drinking water, which is essential for the life of the bees, and the location of the housing of these animals, which must be protected from the prevailing winds. "The existence of beekeepers close to the place where the beehives are located and the number of hives they have is also considered, to avoid the competition of bees for food and the spread of diseases." These places must be reachable to prevent difficulties transporting the material by beekeepers whose registration approaches the 20 producers.
They are all CAPOLIB’s members and offer an industrial unit. This is Casa do Mel, where this product is received raw, until dispatch, passing through extraction, decanting, storage, selection, processing and, packaging. “All honey sold by CAPOLIB subjects to a rigorous control of laboratory analyzes, such as pollen, physicochemical and waste analyzes”, guarantees Albano Álvares. The entity that controls the quality of this product is Kiwa Sativa.
Barroso Honey PDO can be produced conventionally and organically and, its consumption is an asset for health. Its antioxidant properties and the number of vitamins, amino acids, proteins, among other nutrients beneficial to the immune system, that this product contains, result in its increasing demand. "It has antibacterial properties, which can be considered a natural antibiotic" and, "it is scientifically proven that heather honey is the one that has the greatest beneficial health effects", concludes Albano Álvares.
Finally, it is important to clarify that the crystallization of honey, especially when exposed to low temperatures, guarantees a quality product.