When I was down in California recently I more than once came across buckwheat honey that didn’t at all resemble the buckwheat I’m used to from Washington state. At first I was skeptical because I thought I knew what buckwheat honey is: thick and opaque, ranging from dark brown to nearly black, with a strong smell and taste that takes getting used to (it can even have a whiff of cat piss). But this California buckwheat was viscous like a knapweed honey, was a non-opaque medium brown and had none of the hallmark buckwheat flavors I expected. Surely, I thought, this had only a bit of buckwheat in it and was mixed with something else the bees had found. But every time I saw this California version it was the same. The last person I spoke to, the beekeeper for today’s sample, told me that the honey was collected from wild buckwheat up in the hills near Saugus, CA. So this wasn’t coming from farmed buckwheat like the version we get here in Washington. It’s a different plant and it turns out that California has quite a number of native species.
When I was a kid in northern Wisconsin there was a candy store called “Dan’s Gay 90’s” where they made fudge right in front of you, and where there were many rows of baskets, each with a different candy in it. The name and decor were meant to evoke the air of the 1890’s (when the 1990’s came around the name changed to “Dan’s Minocqua Fudge”…). I would go for the old-time candies, like horehound and root beer. They were like tantalizing translucent crystals in their clear wrappers. Every time I taste this California buckwheat I think of that shop and those candies. It’s viscous and sticky sweet with a good dose of classic honey taste, but also has a distinct herbal flavor that makes me think of those old-time candies.
Where To Find It
I saw this kind of honey at farmer’s markets in southern California. I got this one at the Santa Monica farmer’s market.