Vipers Bugloss honey is produced predominantly in the Marlborough and Otago provinces in New Zealand's South island. Other areas do produce Vipers Bugloss from time to time, but are not the reliable producers of quality product that Marlborough and Otago provinces are.
The honey has a delicate flavour with a floral bouquet and being high in fructose is excellent as a drink sweetener, especially coffee where it imparts another flavour dimension. Vipers Bugloss is a close relative of Salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum), another well known honey plant from Australia.
The Vipers Bugloss plant (Echium vulgare) is also variously known as "Borage" and "Blue Borage" and this at times leads to considerable confusion when the culinary herb Blue Borage (Borago officinalis - see photo on left), is mistaken as the source of this honey. Some beekeepers and honey marketers also refer to Vipers Bugloss honey as "Borage" and "Blue Borage" honey with several products being marketed under these names in the New Zealand domestic market. At present none of these products are Borago officinalis honey.
There have been seasons when large quantities of Blue Borage (B. officinalis) are cultivated as a seed crop in Canterbury province, primarily for the extraction of Gama Linoleic Acid (GLA), and a surplus honey crop from this source can arise. It is not known if GLA is found in the honey from this source.
Vipers Bugloss on the other hand is not a cultivated plant but rather grows wild in arid areas with poor soils. When young, the plants are highly palatable to sheep and many high country farmers rotate their stock in time with the growth of Vipers Bugloss. Sometimes this is to the advantage of the beekeeper, at others not. Vipers Bugloss is a biannual and grows with a long root system making it drought resistant. It yields nectar at lower temperatures than clover and the resultant honey is often very dry with a chewy or tacky texture.
The honey averages 23.9mm on the Pfund scale with a standard deviation (SD) of 10mm (640 measurements). It also darkens at a faster rate (double) than most other New Zealand honey and the colour has a brown tint to it. The Pfund grader glass wedge is a "generic" honey hue. Vipers Bugloss honey is more brown that this generic colour.
Vipers Bugloss is a slow crystallizing honey with a low (Glucose-Water)/Fructose ratio.
Glucose 30.2% (SD 2.2)
Fructose 36.4% (SD 2.0)
Sucrose 2.9% (SD 2.2)
It should be noted that the above values for sucrose indicate that there are occasions where the maximum level of 5% in some countries will be exceeded for this honey type.
It is a more reliable crop than Nodding Thistle (our other slow crystallizing, light coloured honey) and so is sought after as a source of comb honey for the production of chunk honey. There are few honey types in the World that can reliably be used for chunk honey and Vipers Bugloss is one of them.
Vipers Bugloss flowers from December to March and peaks dependent on available moisture. Rain during the flowering period can extend the flowering or start a heavier flowering if dry conditions have prevailed prior to rain.