08 August 2008

a few things i learned about honey

I don't talk much here about honey, and all things being equal, I don't use it a lot. But then, I don't add sweeteners to much-- not tea or cereal, which are the things I consume most often that would be susceptible to sweetening. But I do really love honey. The smell, the look, the taste, and the little cute bumblebees that make it.

I recently had a nice chat with Andrew of Andrew's (Taste Bud Bursting) Local (Wildflower) Honey (Fairfield County, CT) at the Union Square Greenmarket, asking him about his (raw, organic, unheated) products and what he does and all of that. Hmm, that makes it all sound very official. It was more that I was breezing through the market on a particularly nice day and was feeling chatty. Friendly smiley Andrew, noticing my bee necklace, and as usual, generous and quick with the samples, handed me a spoon with some whipped honey on it, and on a sugar high just looking at it, I just let the questions fly.

The 'creamy' raw honey you see in stores in a ploy!
People think that creamy look means it's unrefined and more 'raw' than the amber colored syrupy honey, but no! It has to be whipped to get to that consistency, therefore increasing the volume of a smaller amount of product-- honey comes off the comb all pretty and drippy. More visual volume means they can charge you more for less! Andrew does sell whipped honey but it's labeled as such and it's for those who want to be able to spread their honey or don't want to deal with messy honey drips. Oh, and if you like the honey with the 'bits' of stuff in it, that's added in too-- bits of pollen and honeycomb.

Bee pollen is a, erm, 'pick me up', for the gentlemen.
Andrew commented that he gets a lot of older ladies purchasing bee pollen from him for their husbands. Aside from that, it's also a good antioxidant and energy booster. I guess they say 'busy as a bee' for a reason. I've always wondered what people do with those yellow bits. Andrew says he just lets a little dissolve on his tongue and then chases it with juice, but a lot of people don't like the taste so you can also mix it in your cereal or yogurt, or dissolve it in some juice or a smoothie. I've also seen this sold in capsules in the vitamin aisle. (Hey! You could make your own bee pollen vitamins by buying empty vegetable capsules).

The honey is 'flavored' by the flower pollen the bees primarily gather.
Andrew, like most beekeepers, keeps bees close to the blossoms he wants to encourage them to gather from, ranging from buckwheat, to acacia, to blueberry, but hey, we can't control where the bees go, and they fly up to several miles away from the hive to collect pollen. Andrew samples the honey straight from the hive and determines whether it is potent enough to have a specific flavor. If not, it gets labeled as wildflower, which to me, is just as delicious and tasty, and tastes a little different and special every time!

Local honey and other bee products help alleviate seasonal allergies.
Okay so I already knew this one, but it's such a fun tip! If you suffer from seasonal allergies or want to keep them at bay, including a bit of local (it must be local!) honey, bee pollen, or other bee product will greatly improve your body's ability to tolerate the allergens. Not a bad excuse to have a little something sweet. (Check the labels to see where the honey comes from, some labels say 'local' but if you're buying it from a supermarket, it might not be your 'local'.)

I didn't buy anything from Andrew that day as I already have a cute honey bear filled with his Wildflower honey at home, but I did try a couple different 'flavors' of his honey, including one I can't remember the name of that was kind of cinnamony and spicy. YUM! I could get used to that sweetness. Andrew and his taste-bud bursting honey is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays.

If you're interested in learning more about bees or beekeeping, go to your local farmer's market or find a local beekeeper near you to find out about classes or other learning opportunities-- it's possible to keep bees on city rooftops, suburban backyards, or in wide open spaces. The Permaculture Institute also offers beekeeping and permaculture workshops in New Mexico, and other beekeepers and organizations teach workshops across the country-- look for one in your area. In your garden or yard landscaping, you can also plant to encourage honeybees, which with the mystery honeybee crisis (or, Colony Collapse Disorder) we're seeing around the world right now, would be a really nice gesture to the bees to say 'thank you for everything you do.'

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