Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The taste of honey

We extracted honey this weekend. As the little hexagonal cells that the bees had filled over the summer emptied, we filled jars with the beautiful golden sweetener to use over the winter. The house was fragrant with the aroma of honey, the floor was sticky with drips and we sated our palates with the incredible taste.

This year we extracted honey from hives in three different locations. Steve and Kanita brought boxes from their hives in the Twin Cities, Paul and Jenny’s came from East Silent Lake and ours from the farm. Each honey had a unique taste. Steve’s was made in a forest, the bees visiting the trees, wild flowers and local farm market gardens to create a honey with a floral taste. Paul and Jenny’s bees also lived at the edge of a woods with some grain fields in the distance. Their honey was similar to Steve and Kanita’s, obviously from a combination of wildflowers. Our hives sit at the edge of the home woods, overlooking a big wetland, beside an alfalfa field. Every year, our honey has a wonderful minty flavor. Our guess is that the bees spend a lot of time at the Motherwort blossoms. Motherwort is a part of the mint family and blooms early and long in the woods, so it could give a minty flavor. But who knows what the bees find for nectar the rest of the time. Alfalfa is supposed to give a light, subtle, spicey flavor with a mild floral aroma. Basswood blossoms yield a light honey with a strong biting flavor and a woody scent. I know our bees find both blossoms, but I don’t recognize the flavor notes in our honey.

Whatever the cause, our local honeys have spoiled our families for store bought honey. That pasteurized spread which is a blend of honeys from many different beekeepers, is sweet, but has no special flavor. Varietal honeys on the other hand, can range from sweet to sour, citrusy to minty, soft to bold. No matter the source, whether we spread it on toast, stir it into chai, or drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, our honey is a treat.

Honey sundaes can be simple, just a light coating of honey thickening on vanilla ice cream, or complex, a light coating of honey thickening on bananas sliced over vanilla ice cream. Either is an incredible way to experience the taste of honey.

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