Friday, October 30, 2009

Honeybees -- who knew?

I went to a fantastic event this week downtown at the Palace Ballroom, part of “The Good Life” series from Kim Ricketts and interviewer extraordinaire, Warren Etheredge. The series features authors who have created for themselves this kind of life, and share with the rest of us how to do the same. Tuesday’s special guest was C. Marina Marchese, author of Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper and owner of Connecticut's Red Bee Artisanal Honey. I haven’t had a chance yet to read the book, but a couple of things from the conversation stuck out for me.

One is the concept of flower constancy and how it relates to flavors of honey. Apparently honeybees have a traveling radius of 2-3 miles, so that’s the area in which they seek out various flowers. And within that radius they return to the same flower time after time. It’s this pattern that allows beekeepers to produce honey with a consistent flavor profile. In order maintain that consistency, they track what is blooming at a particular time and stop harvesting the honey that their bees are producing 2-3 weeks after that flower stops blooming. And voila, you have lavender honey or wild raspberry honey or blueberry blossom honey, whatever is in season and within the honeybees’ nectar-gathering radius.

The second has to do with the traveling radius of a honeybee as well, but as it relates to what’s an organic product and what’s not. Because bees leave the hive and collect nectar from flowers within this 2-3 mile radius, it’s tough for a beekeeper to guarantee that nothing the bees come into contact with contains pesticides or other nasties, thus making the organic stamp of approval very difficult to attain. The good news is that if it’s challenging to buy organic honey, it’s really easy to buy honey blessed with our other current favorite stamp of approval: “produced locally.” And even better, eating this honey means that you’re ingesting allergens local to your particular environment, thus you’re less likely to suffer the effects of these same allergens when you breathe them in their flowering form. What a deal!

I’ve been meaning to attend a Kim Ricketts event for a while, and now that I’ve been to this one I’m looking forward to the Cooks and Books visiting chef series, particularly. Who wouldn’t love the pairing of interesting venue, fantastic food and entertaining personality?

[Photo courtesy of Red Bee Artisanal Honey]

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