The Joy of Local Honey
Have you ever thought about how baffling bees are? How they organise their colonies of 30-40,000 strong to all work in unison towards a common goal? How they dance in the air to show each other where flowers and nectar can be found, and how scientists watched these dances for ages until tentatively figuring their patterns out? And how bees are able to produce a substance (propolis) that heals wounds and infections by virtue of being anti-viral, something that modern pharmacy still struggles to achieve?
Bees have so much to give us but they are also vulnerable, relying on our protection and gentleness. Everywhere people are getting more aware of the necessity to protect bees. Farming in monocultures and ridding spaces of bee-friendly plants that are considered weeds has lowered the number of bees in most countries. Honey farming often involves massive trucks full of dozens or hundreds of hives that follow the bloom of crops over countries or continents. This only comes to the public eye now and then when there is news report of a bee-carrying truck sadly involved in a road accident.
But not only is local honey production more sustainable, there are also worlds between the sugary blend of honey that ends up as a jar of own-brand on the supermarket shelf, or a pure honey that tastes of the local plants where the hive is. I absolutely love floral nectar honeys but also the aromatic nutty taste of darker variations. Light golden meadow or lime-tree honey on a croissant on a lazy Sunday morning, strong chestnut honey on a slice of freshly baked sourdough with a thin layer of butter (or well, margarine in my case as I’m dairy intolerant) are just examples of how honey can enrich eating. There is also a difference in spring and summer/early fall honey gathered from the same hive in the same spot: the former is sweeter and lighter in taste and appearance whereas the latter is richer and darker.
One of my friends is a beekeeper which really opened my eyes to the world of honey harvesting. I had no idea how much work, equipment costs and know-how is necessary to make sure a hive of around 30-40,000 in number is well and productive. There are extremely high standards both in caring for the bees and in working with the honey and wax. Most beekeepers learn their trade by attending classes, and the laws of animal keeping and ethics apply to bees as well as to other livestock.
It has become easy to find local honey, from farmers markets to local artisan and food shops, and I highly recommend having a look around. It will really upgrade a quick morning meal of toast with honey and adds flavour to any dish while also bringing the knowledge that it is sustainable and healthy.
Keywords: artisan, artisanal, slow food, artisan food, beekeeping, small business, sustainable, sustainable farming, handmade, makers movement, craft blogger, food influencer