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Nature’s notebook: Honey — tasting the flowers

 Natures notebook: Honey — tasting the flowers

Long after the last flowers of summer and late autumn have faded we can enjoy a sweet reminder of their nectar and floral essence in honey, the liquid gold from bees. all through the growing season honeybees gather nectar and pollen for food for the hive. In the process of visiting multiple flowers of the same species pollen is inadvertently transferred from one plant to another ensuring seed production for the next generation of plants. the pollen is high in protein while the nectar, high in sugars and good for energy, is converted by the bees to honey. the honey we eat is extra that colonies make which would have been used to feed young larvae or stored for the lean, winter months.although I had seen advertisements for clover honey, orange blossom honey, or buckwheat honey, I did not realize honey actually takes on an essence and distinctive taste based on the flowers the bees visit.This changed after my husband and I were able to watch our friends, Bob and Beth Bode of East Greenbush, harvest some of their bees’ honey earlier this fall. Bob has several hives in his backyard and shares his honey bounty with neighbors.the afternoon we were there was a quick lesson in both beekeeping and honey harvesting. Bob started by removing a frame filled with capped honey cells, the honeycomb, from the upper area of one of his two hives. he explained the lower frames were where the larvae were. my husband was standing at least 10 feet away to get a picture when a bee came out and stung him on the arm.that was when Bob commented that the bees must still be angry that he had taken some frames out earlier in the morning. Who knew bees have a memory? my husband is familiar with beekeeping since his father had also kept bees and was not bothered too much by the sting.we moved quickly with the frame into their garage with all doors shut. if the bees followed the scent of the honey, they would swarm after us to get it. Bob and Beth had borrowed a mechanical honey extractor from their son-in-law who also keeps bees. Bob cut off the wax caps from the honeycomb and added it to the separator with the ones from earlier in the morning.With the lid closed, he turned it on, and the frames rotated quickly like a washing machine on spin cycle to extract the honey. what flowed out of the extractor’s spigot were volumes of honey which Bob and Beth filtered to remove pieces of the beeswax. This honey was a dark gold and had a distinctive aroma and flavor.they generously gave us a pint of this fall honey as well as one from earlier in the summer. the summer honey was a light, yellow-gold and had a scent and taste different from the fall honey.that one is gone now, and I have been sampling both the fall honey and store clover honey to describe the difference, but the closest I can say is the store honey, while delicious, is almost bland like corn syrup in aroma and flavor when compared with the honey from the Bode’s bees.a word of caution on the use of honey for infants under one year is that honey should not be given to them. while honey resists the growth of bacteria because of the high sugar content, essentially killing bacteria by drying them out, bacterial spores are able to survive. an infant under one is not able to fight the spores like we can. Continued…

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Nature’s notebook: Honey — tasting the flowers

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