Author: Patty Lee

Sourwood Honey


“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Sourwood Honey


Taste Notes: Balanced, Smokey, Flower, Smooth, Light, Airy, Spiced finish
Wine is the expression of the geographygeology and the climate of a region as much as it represents a particular varietal of grape. In the same way honey represents more than the work of a hive. It is a unique and beautiful reflection of the environment, the season and the blooms pollinated in the pursuit of its creation.

A skillful beekeeper knows how to arrange their hives just so to ensure the bees pollinate a specifically selected flower. They select flowers and time the collection to produce exquisite and unique honeys that exemplify their provenance. Sourwood Honey is a celebrated but rare variety of single flower origin produced in the Southeastern United States.

Sourwood Trees, (Oxydendrum arboreum) are native to the United States and bloom from mid-June to late July, thriving on the rocky soils of Sourwood_flowers_closeup (1)the Allegany, Blue Ridge, and Smoky Mountains. Because they bloom later in the year, after most of the wildflowers, maple and tulip blooms, there is a narrow 3-4 week window where beekeepers can harvest this rare nectar.

Sourwood honey is prized by connoisseurs having won best honey in the world twice at the prestigious Apimondia World Honey Show. It is distinguished by a light amber color, slow crystallization and a spicy, gingerbread twang on the finish. Sourwood Honey is often in short supply as the nectar produced by the trees is very dependent on the climatic conditions. Sourwood trees are also declining in number because of habitat loss from development.

Mike Childers is a local beekeeper in Raleigh, North Carolina who brings his bees deep into the Great Smoky Mountains right beside National Park Service Property to pollinate on Sourwood trees well away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Lightly filtered, pristine, and straight from the bees to your table.

To learn more about Sourwood Honey and listen to an interview with Mike check out this piece on Heritage Radio Network.


For more information about purchasing Sourwood Honey click here

The Carnivore’s Manifesto at SVF Foundation

SVFoundationOn the beautiful Swiss Valley Farm (SVF), in front of a room full of local Newport foodies, farmers and chefs Patrick Martins boldly declared, “Local is a measurement of distance, not taste.”

Immediately the row of chefs in the back row nodded in agreement and the farmers sitting in the middle moved to the edge of their seats. Ever the instigator, Patrick went on to have a rousing conversation with the attendees about his book, The Carnivore’s Manifesto and the importance of preserving rare breeds of livestock.

Preserving rare breeds of livestock is at the very core of the SVF Foundation, who preserves germplasm (semen and embryos) from rare and endangered breeds. SVF freezes these rare genetics in tubes and stores them in liquid nitrogen. The collection will eventually be moved to the Smithsonian where the material will remain viable for at least 1,000 years. SVF has a network of farmers who bring their rare breeds to Newport, RI to spend a year enjoying the ocean air and contributing their genetic material to the foundation’s collection. By collecting 200 embryos and 3,000 straws of semen per breed, SVF is able to reawaken a breed with its full genetic diversity within one generation. SVF provides an important and necessary safety net to the mission Heritage Foods USA has been working towards for over the last 12 years, which is to preserve genetic diversity in our food system.

The talk at SVF was intensified by the learned audience who, already passionate about heritage breeds, was quickly asking the tough questions. “How do we determine which breeds are truly heritage? How can chefs best support small farmers when they are often working at different economies of scale? How can we develop a better processing infrastructure?” It was a powerful event and while there are no easy answers, it is only through these conversations and books like The Carnivore’s Manifesto that we can begin to address those issues.

A huge thank you to the SVF Foundation for hosting us and filling the room with passionate carnivores. Heritage Foods USA applauds the great work of SVF and their efforts to ensure the future for heritage breeds of livestock.


BBQ Brisket

BBQ Brisket from Mark in NY

Mark from New York gave our Piedmontese brisket a try. The Pied is a very unique breed originally from the mountainous Piedmont region of Italy. Even though this beef is known for being very lean, because Piedmontese cattle carry the myostatin gene, or double-muscle gene, their lean meat is incredibly tender and flavorful.

Blenheim Apricot

A Rare Fruit for All Seasons – Hand Picked and Dried Blenheim Apricots

We are always looking for new, unique and rare foods from farmer who’s practices celebrate the land and foods they produce. We came across an amazing dried apricot that was unlike any we had before. The skin was thin and delicate leaving the fruit juicy, sticky and tender.  The Blenheim apricot, named after England’s Blenheim Place where it is thought to have originated, has been grown in the Santa Clara Valley region of California since the early 1900’s.  At the height of its popularity it was one of the most widely planted apricot varieties for good reason. The Blenheim ripens from the inside out and later in the season, making it more delicate than most. The Blenheim is both sweet and tart with an intensely aromatic aroma of honeysuckle.

By the 1960s the Blenheim began a slow decline, losing out in sales to tougher apricots that stood up to cross-country shipping. Once at risk of losing this truly remarkable fruit, the Blenheim has seen a slow but steady recover in numbers. More producers are begin to recognize the value of this rare treat thanks in part to its inclusion on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste catalog— a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. We are excited to share these rare treats with you!

Blenheim ApricotHand Picked and Dried Blenheim Apricots 8oz


Taste Notes: Bright, Sweet, Tangy, Juicy, Sunkissed, Honeysuckle

We think the bright flavor of the Blenheim shines brightest straight out of the bag as a snack or appetizer. 

B&R Farms, a 4th generation family operation in San Benito County, has been growing Blenheims since 1929. They have 100 acres of established Blenheims and in 2013, they planted another  25 acres.  B&R hopes to continue to expand their unique orchard as the land becomes available. The farmers at B&R handpick their apricots and dry them in the California sun.
Dried apricots will keep many weeks left out in a jar for snacking but they will start to lose moisture & darken after a few weeks.


We recommend storing the apricots in a cool, dark location where they will last for at least a year.

Lamb Origin Map

Development of Modern Sheep

Lamb Origin Map

The development of modern sheep traces back to ancient Mesopotamia where the wild muflon, the ancestor of modern sheep, were first believed to be domesticated between 11000 and 9000 BC. These sheep were primarily raised for meat, milk, and skins. Woolly sheep began to be developed around 6000 BC in Iran, and cultures such as the Persians became dependent on sheep’s wool for trading. Domesticated woolly sheep were imported to Africa and Europe via ancient trading routes where breed distinction and differentiation began to take shape.

Through breed improvement efforts, selective breeding and migration via trade, modern breeds began to emerge across Europe and Africa. These breeds were further developed and crossed before being brought to the Americas on the ships of explores and merchants.


Origin : Spain
Population : 2,000 and 5,000 Worldwide
Status : Threatened
Temperament : Active but Docile
Known for : Sweet, lean meat
Facts : The first breed brought to North America.

Flavor Profile : Rich, Earthy, Tangy, Sweet, Mustard Seed, Spicy, Herbaceous, Silky.
Navajo-Churro : The Spanish Churro sheep was first brought to the Americas in the 1500s by the Spanish explores. One of the earliest domesticated animals in the New World, it quickly became integrated in native culture and cuisine. The Navajo-Churro produces excellent wool and meat. It was Navajo women who owned the sheep, the grazing rights and the wool, which was an important source of income. The Navajo-Churro existed in great numbers until the 1860’s when the United States government targeted their populations while at war with the Navajo.

The Navajo-Churro produces meat is lean with a distinctive, sweet flavor. It is rich, hearty and earthy with tangy and spicy notes of mustard seeds.


Origin : Tunisia
Population : 5,000 USA
Status : Rare
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Exceptionally flavored meat
Facts : A favorite breed among our founding fathers.

Flavor Profile : Earthy, Minerally, Buttermilk, Not Lamby, Silky.

Tunis : The Tunis breed originated in Tunisia and is reputed to be more then 3000 years old. Referred to as fat-tailed sheep in the bible, the tail is now smaller but mature ewes still carry the distinctive tail fat the breed is known for. The color ranges from tan to red with the occasional white spot on the head and tail.

A favorite breed among our founding fathers, John Adams mentioned the breed in his diary in 1782 noting its exceptional taste. Thomas Jefferson ordered that a herd be imported from Tunisia because he loved them so much he thought they should be more readily available. George Washington bred them—one of his early legacies was the proliferation of his particular Tunis crossbreed on farms and dinner tables along the east coast. The Tunis is an excellent ambassador breed for the grass-fed movement yet still remains on the Livestock Breed Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.


Dorset Horn

Origin : England
Population : Less than 2,000 Worldwide
Status : Watch
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Exceptional flavor

Flavor Profile :Olive, Lavendar, Sweet, Round, Lamby, Fresh.
Dorset Horn : The Dorset Horn is a breed of sheep that spread over Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and most of Wales during the 1700’s. Once popular with English aristocracy, the Dorset Horn has seen a steady decrease in population since the inception of industrialized agriculture. Today it is listed as Critically Threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. Dorsets tolerate heat well—heat tolerance contributes to the rams’ ability to breed earlier in the season than rams of other breeds. The Dorset Horn is able to give birth three times a year, which contributes to the Dorsets profitability and appeal for farmers who are familiar with heritage breeds.

Dorset Horn sheep are prized for their lean meat and tenderness.


Origin : America
Population : Between 2,000 and 5,000 Worldwide
Status : Watch
Temperament : Docile
Known for : Balanced, mild flavor
Facts : A haired sheep

Flavor Profile : Savory, Mushroom, Clover, Peppery, Creamy, Woody.

Katahdin : The Katahdin is unique in that it is a hair sheep and lacks the traditional coat of wool that lamb are associated with. Wool production takes time and energy from both the animals and the farmers while only providing 10 percent of the farmer’s income. In addition wool production can create a more pungent and muttony taste in the meat. Katahdins are favored by many farmers for their low maintenance and prized by chefs for their bright and clean taste. The Katahdin breed was first developed by Michael Piel of Abbott, Maine. It is an ideal breed for grass-fed systems and serves land conservation projects well.

Irish Potato Famine History

The Great Potato Famine

Irish Potato Famine History

The history of Irish food is interesting for more than just the delicious combinations of meat, potatoes and alcohol but also for the lessons we must learn from the great tragedy of the Irish Potato Famine. Between 1845 and 1852 over one million Irish peasants died of starvation and another million fled the country hoping for fuller bellies. While there were many political and social factors leading to the terrible scale of this tragedy, everything started with nearly 3 million Irish peasants subsisting on a single strain of plant in their fields, one variety of the potato. This great tragedy hits close to home here at Heritage Foods USA as we support farmers fighting against the pressure of moving toward a monoculture food system.

The story of the Great Famine starts in 5,000 BC in the South American highlands where the potato was first domesticated by humans. The potato then travelled across the Atlantic ocean on the ships of Spanish conquistadors, finally reaching Europe in 1570. Most Europeans avoided potatoes initially because of the close connection to the poisonous nightshade plant. Eventually the aristocracy realized the potato had a high caloric value that could sustain as many as 10 people on a acre and was easier to grow than wheat. Though slow to be adopted in mainland Europe, once the potato was brought to Ireland it quickly replaced a more diverse agricultural landscape as peasants sought to subsist off of smaller and smaller plots of land.

While the potato fields were still abundant many peasants exclusively ate potatoes, only supplementing with milk when they could afford the splurge. In order to meet their caloric needs a “burly farmer could down 15 potatoes” in a  meal, according to one historical account. A spud filled diet might not have been the most enjoyable for the Irish, but it was feeding them until the early 1800’s when the first issues with the blight (Photophthora infestans) began to affect Ireland. The arrival of the fungus combined with unseasonably wet weather caused regional  crop failures. Potato plants would wither and blacken while the tubers themselves were rotting in the soil. Then in late August of 1845, “a queer mist came over the Irish country side”. What had been a sporadic issue soon swept the country and by 1846 there were hardly any seed potatoes to plant in the fields let alone to eat. This country-wide crop failure continued for several years and while the blight was impacting potato plants in countries across Europe, Ireland faced the largest human toll.

More than a century later Irish eyes are smiling once again, but there is so much that can be learned from this preventable tragedy. The Great Famine is one in a long list of crop failures, though it cost the most human lives. In the 19th century four million acres of French grapes were decimated by the virulent Phylloxera vitifoliae. This same disease cost the winemaking counties of California millions of dollars as 70% of their crop came from the same rootstock. In the 1930’s Costa Rica’s banana industry nearly went bankrupt after Fusarium oxysporum destroyed thousands of hectares of their monoculture plantations. Failing to learn from their mistakes, these banana growers have faced recurrences of the disease in the 1950’s, 1970’s and 1990’s. In the 1970’s uniform high-yielding corn hybrids comprised about 70% of all corn varieties in the United States. A corn leaf blight resulted in the loss of 15% of the entire crop costing the industry over one billion dollars. History has shown us time and time again that while these high-yielding crops seem appealing at first, in monoculture we are setting ourselves up for potentially catastrophic crop failure

The economic risk and environmental toll of these monocultures is simply too great. Thousands of years of agriculture have resulted in a beautifully diverse array of plants and animals uniquely adapted to different climatic conditions. It is only through the preservation of this diversity that we can truly foster a food-secure future.

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