Saturday, December 14, 2013

Apiculture – Portugal

Beekeeping, or honey farming, one of the oldest activities undertaken by Humankind, is still practised in various regions across the globe. All continents boast archaeological finds reflecting a close relationship between Humankind and honey bees (Apis mellifera). However, the most ancient evidence of this relationship has been found in the Iberian Peninsula, in the form of cave paintings dating back eight thousand years.

Beekeeping and its products, primarily honey, have been linked to the Portuguese nation since its beginning. Countless references to honey and beeswax are found in many city and town charters. Formerly based on traditional beehives (cortiços in Portuguese, a word derived from the Portuguese word for cork, the noble material of which they were made), beekeeping is currently an important business within the farming sector. In fact, the beekeeping business generates wealth both directly (honey, pollen, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly) and indirectly, by ensuring crop pollination and the viability of many ecosystems, thus contributing to the survival of many other animal and plant species.

In addition to being a valuable food and an important source of energy and aminoacids, honey has recently seen its virtues extolled by healthcare professionals, who recommend its use in the treatment of specific illnesses. Due to its nutritional value and probiotic properties, honey is traditionally viewed as a medicine in rural areas and is still considered as such by many people.

Honey is produced all over the Portuguese territory. The diversity of the Portuguese environment is reflected in a wide variety of types of honey, with each product embodying the aromas, flavours and colours of the unique ecosystem and scenery from which it originates. The distinctive characteristics of the rich, varied landscapes and settings encountered from North to South find their way into the various types of honey produced in Portugal.

The cold, mountainous regions of Northeastern Portugal, which boast countless chestnut groves (Castanea sativa ), usually surrounded by deciduous woods predominantly populated by Pyrenean oaks (Quercus pyrenaica), are a traditional setting for beekeeping activities and the location where an internationally renowned honey is produced – Chestnut Honey.

The mountainous interior is dominated by pastures and areas dedicated to forestry, an environment much appreciated by bees and beekeepers alike. Exuberant flowers abound in the spring, mostly in broom (Cytisus spp.) and heather(Erica spp.) woods, the latter of which produce large amounts of nectar and originate Heather Honey, a dark honey with a strong, distinctive flavour.

The landscape typically found in the Alentejo region consists mostly of a farming, forestry and pasture system known in Portuguese as Montado, where woods and natural pastures used for feeding cattle, as well as semi-intensive grain farming areas, can be found under the cover of holly oak (Quercus rotundifolia) and cork oak (Quercus suber) forests. Although humanized, this ecosystem has always been a favourable environment for beekeeping, since it provides all the resources required for honey production, namely nectar and pollen. Lavender Honey, a light amber honey with a mild taste and aroma, is usually produced in this region.

Orange Blossom Honey, a uniquely aromatic type of honey, is produced in the South, in the Algarve, a region well known for its citrus and fruit tree orchards.
Flowering profusely, orange trees are an abundant source of high-quality nectar, a resource long exploited by beekeepers in the Algarve. Orange blossom nectar leads to increased production of a superior honey, as a result of the careful pollination performed by honey bees.

Technical Details
Date of Issue: 23 September 2013
Values: stamps of 0,36€, 0,50€, 0,70€ and 0,80€.
Souvenir sheet with stamp of 1,70€.
Souvenir sheet with stamp of 1,90€.
Acknowledgments: João Diogo Casaca
Federação Nacional de Apicultores de Portugal
Designer: José Projecto
Printer: INCM
Process: Offset
Size: stamps: 80,0 x 30,6 mm
Souvenir sheet: 125 x 95 mm
Perforation: 13 x 13 with Cross of Christ
Paper: 110 g./m2
Sheet: with 20 stamps

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