Bees scare me. I feel foolish that something so small and generally uninterested in my presence would cause me to act in ways that call my sanity into question. I’ve leapt from my automobile, removed clothing in public, and screamed like a girlie girl (which I am not) in response to an unwelcomed visitor.
But bees are not my enemy. I would go to great lengths to defend their existence, because honey bees are an integral part of our food system. Beyond making honey, bees pollinate around a third of the fruits and vegetables that we rely on for nutrition. If you watch the movie Vanishing of the Bees, you’ll learn about a phenomenon called “colony collapse” that is threatening bee populations all over the world. Our honey sources are in trouble.
So what’s the big deal about honey, and particularly about local honey? Honey in general has impressive qualities, as well as a broad array of flavor profiles, but there is something very special about local honey that goes beyond satisfying your sweet tooth.
If you dread the onset of spring because of your reactions to pollen, local honey is here to help. I found Cloister Honey at Dilworth Drug displayed prominently on a shelf with the allergy medications. Regular consumption of the most local honey you can find has been proven to act like a series of immunological injections, as it helps you adapt to your environment. Honey can also soothe a sore throat or suppress a cough (a little bourbon doesn’t hurt either).
There are many reasons to buy local honey vs. honey generated from a foreign nectar source. Commercial honey has often been heated and pasteurized, which reduces the benefits and the antibacterial properties. And if you buy local, you can know your beekeeper and you can know for sure that you are getting a pure product vs. one that has been blended with something else.If you find it at a farmers market you can be pretty sure that it is local, but it never hurts to ask.
Depending on where the bees roam, honey from different sources can taste vastly different. Find a beekeeper who will offer you samples and help you find one that you like! A little honey goes a long way – it is sweeter than sugar, and better for your body. Beyond a topping for yogurt and biscuits or a sweetener for tea, it has preservative qualities that make it useful in baked goods and other recipes.
What can you do to make sure we continue to have an abundance of local honey? Be a friend to the bees, and support your local beekeeper. Beekeeping has also become a popular hobby, but please go to Bee School first! Plant a garden for the bees to pollinate, and consider using organic pest control and garden inputs. It is good for you, good for the bees, and better for the environment. And how sweet it is once the golden goodness starts flowing.