This has nothing to do with CCD, but everything to do with the beekeeping life. If you want a serious, and pretty straight forward summary of what CCD is doing at the moment, where it has been and where it may be going (and dont want to click through the past dozen or so articles that have been here and covered most of this already, click on this link Penn State link and disregard the rest of this article. The author has talked to almost all of the right people and tells a pretty good story. Its thoughtful, sensitive and matter-of-fact. Theres nothing new because theres nothing new at the moment, but it does fill lots of space ... all three parts of it. It deserves a place in the archives here somewhere.
But heres the thing. Beekeepers, for the most part, are pretty much unaware of CCD. Depending on where they are right now, theyre finishing up this seasons work with the bees by feeding or moving to winter grounds, getting ready for winter where they are, moving to California for almond pollination, harvesting and processing the last of the honey crop for the year, marketing what theyve harvested, finding pollination contracts to prepare for next spring, fixing or building equipment, making more honey far in the south, or simply taking it easy, finally.
But I dont want to talk about any of that, either. Heres one of the best things about being a beekeeper ... not the best maybe, but certainly one of the best. Honey.
I have to travel quite a bit for my job. That gets old sometimes what with the hassles of air travel anymore, but those annoyances are far outweighed by the good people I get to visit with when I arrive. I go to beekeeping meetings, visit beekeeping operations to cover stories or current news, or set up shop and sell the books we publish. Ive been fortunate in that regard and have met hundreds, probably thousands of beekeepers over the years. And I collect the honey they produce. Right now I have 17 different kinds of honey sitting on my kitchen table, ready to eat. I have honey from Arizona, Oregon, Ohio, Florida. Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and some places I cant remember.
And the honey in Arizona is not the same by any stretch as the honey from Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Oregon or South Dakota. And this is what I want to share with you ... the great hidden secret of artisan and varietal honeys.
Varietal honey is honey that is produced by bees and harvested by beekeepers that is primarily from a single source ... say clover from a quarter-section of sweet clover in South Dakota, or wild blueberry from the barrens in Maine. When that happens you end up with a honey that is distilled from the nectar, from the essence of the flowers of a single variety of plants. When that happens and a beekeeper harvests it so it does not mix with other honeys produced a miracle occurs and you end up with a bottle of the most wonderful, breathtaking, glorious tasting liquid you can imagine. And of course orange blossom does not taste at all like raspberry honey or clover honey, or tupelo honey or sumac honey or goldenrod honey or sourwood honey or starthistle honey or cranberry honey, or ... well, I think you see my point.
Varietal honeys are as unique and distinct as wines made from different grapes grown on different soils on different continents. And the soil and the weather can make, say, even sweet clover honey from South Dakota taste just a little bit different than the same-plant sweet clover honey from Ohio. Not much, but enough that a good honey connoisseur can tell. Thats the beauty of varietal honey. (and where honey snobs come from).
Now Artisan honey is a whole different animal. Artisan honey is definitely not varietal honey. But it is special. For instance ... in my part of Ohio in the early spring if the weather is good, my bees will produce a mix of black locust honey and tulip poplar honey. Some years theres way more locust, maybe almost pure locust honey. Some years theres way more tulip popular honey in the mix. You just never know what the season will bring because of the weather, the moisture in the soil from last season, pest pressure and luck. Now locust honey is a very light, mild and delicate honey, and when pure is so light that you can read a newspaper through the bottle. Tulip poplar on the other hand is much darker, and has a healthy red tinge to it theres no mistaking tulip poplar honey. But it doesnt taste strong like other dark honeys say sumac or buckwheat for instance.
So every year in the spring I have a mix of these two honeys ... and no two years are alike. Each is a one-of-a-kind, and if you like this years you better buy two because next year will be different. Thats artisan honey. But to identify it for my customers .. well, my friends because I never sell the stuff ... I call it my Spring Tree Blossom Honey ... and they know that its a blend, a mix, a unique and special treat that they may never have again, so they savor each and every spoonful and seek out each years original taste.
My point here is that honey is, and should be a very special product. Varietal honeys are special because the beekeeper worked hard to isolate the produce of his or her bees and produced a honey that reflects the very essence of the flowers the bees visited. Because they are all, or mostly all the same, what you enjoy is the same as the product of a gently crafted single malt scotch, or the aroma of a single rose. And artisan honeys are the unique combination of two, three or more nectars, blended together each season in a this-year-only mix that will never, ever happen again.
If you enjoy honey, seek out these special kinds ... varietals and artisans ... your search will be difficult and fraught with mystery, but your reward will be magnificent.
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