I’ve been given honey twice in the past few weeks.
What a wonderful gift!
It’s a gift that has been given twice.
People gave it to me, but bees gave it to them.
Some new friends, Amber Nicole and Paul, gave us a jar of Mad Urban Bees honey. http://www.madurbanbees.com/
Nathan Clarke operates Mad Urban Bees, one of the first urban apiaries in the country. He has two hives in his back yard and another 50 hives around the Madison area hosted by people who understand the benefit that bees bring to the urban ecosystem. Amber Nicole and Paul are bee hosts. Amber Nicole said she was a little concerned at first that bringing a hive of honey bees into her yard would compromise the population of native bees already there, but her observation was that they co-existed peacefully.
According to Clarke, city bees can actually be happier than country bees. They live in a world of flowering trees and ornamental varieties, giving them a bounty of nectar and pollen from which to choose, and the growing season in Madison is longer than that in the surrounding farmland.
They feast on basswood, apple and crabapple trees, dandelions, creeping Charlie, bergamot, sedum, asters, mint, oregano, roses and the list goes on and on. Clark says all that variety really improves the health of the bees and the taste of the honey.
Several weeks ago, Doug and I got together with Marci and Jim Hess. They are restoring prairie on their land near Blanchardville, and we shared our projects in a great day of hiking and talking on each others’ land. We saw their restoration efforts in their woods and their marvelous newly-created prairies.
They shared with us a jar of honey from the bees that they keep beside their prairie. I was really excited to have a jar of prairie sweetness now that the grasses and flowers have gone into their winter phase. I love the beauty of winter stalks edged with snow, but prairie honey is a wonderful reminder of when these plants were moist and green and soaking in the sun.
I put them on the shelf next to our most recent farmers’ market honey purchase, from Dale Marsden who keeps bees near Madison. He keeps about 60 hives, and says each hive can produce about 100 pounds of honey a year. His bees frequent dandelion, locust, Russian olive, clover and occasionally blackberry and raspberry. He also takes his bees to Spooner for knapweed, basswood and purple loosestrife. Sometimes he stops at the cranberry bogs in Warrens along the way.
WHERE HAS YOUR HONEY BEEN?
It’s a good idea to know where your honey came from. If it doesn’t say on the jar, it may come from China. and may contain additives you would not like. Processed honey you buy in stores may have been heated and forced through an ultra-filtering process that removes the pollen to improve shelf life. It may even have corn syrup added to it. The Food and Drug Administration says that ultra-filtered honey without pollen is not actually honey, but loopholes get it on the store shelf labeled honey anyway.
Since I found myself with three jars of honey in the pantry, I decided to have a honey taste test. All three of my types are quite light. I have heard that darker honeys have more flavor and more antioxidants, but I could detect subtle differences between them. My personal favorite is the Prairie Honey, but I did not do a blind test, and I may have been influenced by my enthusiasm for prairie and love of its flowers.
Do you have a favorite type of honey?
I’d love to hear about it.