Giving thanks for the honey

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The sweet golden treasure is this year’s honey.

Honeycomb slowly dripped viscous syrup as white wax cappings cleanly sliced away, pooling like liquid sunshine into a bucket. Every cell releasing the gifts of some flower’s nectary with an explosion of fragrance. I dipped a teaspoon in the honey and tasted soft sweet chords of floral top notes and fresh fruity twists.

The creation of honey is an alchemical process. Flowers produce a sugar-rich liquid by glands called nectaries, signalling the honeybee to come and drink deeply. Her honey stomach heavy with nectar, she flies back to the hive and shares the sweetness on her sisters’ tongues. Thousands of tiny wings fan the cells magically turning nectar into honey.

A dozen honeybees are needed to collect enough nectar to make one teaspoon of honey and each bee must visit 2,600 flowers for this to happen.

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This teaspoon of honey holds the nectar of 31,200 flowers. Summer’s essence distilled and concentrated in every drop. We have a beautiful harvest from Queen Myrtle’s hive. Like our honey crop of three year’s ago, it’s too thick for the extractor. We’ll take it over autumn by crushing and filtering through muslin.

I’m thankful to the trees, flowers and honeybees who made our honey.

Welcome Melissa

We named Myrtle’s daughter and the new queen of our honey hive, Melissa. While we wished for her to emerge the bees were the picture of contentment, which gave us the wisdom to wait a month for the queen. This inspired the name Melissa.

“Melissa oil promotes sensitivity and intuition and helps us find inner contentment and strengthen ‘wisdom of the heart’.” (Salvatore Battaglia)

The sweet blossomy lemony fragrance of melissa suits our light golden honey very well. The name Melissa is from the Greek ‘bee’ indicating the attractiveness bees feel towards the plant. A perfect name for the queen who continues the legacy of our favourite hive.

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19 thoughts on “Giving thanks for the honey

  1. Was Myrtle’s honey too thick to extract because of the type of honey or because you had to wait between harvest and extraction? Some honey crystallises very quickly away from the hive. All those bees work hard to keep it just right!

    Melissa sounds like the perfect name. Long may she reign!

    • The honey was too thick to extract because of the type of honey. We had exactly the same thick honey when we took the honey off the hive and extracted on the same day, so we did cut comb instead. I’d be interested to know the forage for such thick honey – it’s not crystallised but more like jelly.

      I’m sure Melissa will be a lovely queen!

      • Honey fascinates me. Whenever I give some to people that ask “where’s it from”. As if I know where 50,000 bees fly to eat 🙂 What’s really interesting is to see the difference between 2 hives that sit right next to each other. You’d think they’d be collecting in the same places, but obviously not. Colour, flavour, aroma and texture can be dramatically different.

        We have a tree here called a jelly bush – I’d suggest that’s where your bees went but I don’t think the nectar is actually jelly like. You’ll have to keep hunting…

      • We took our treacly honey to Chelsea Physic Garden to be tasted by an expert honey taster! He said instantly ‘Rapeseed’ which would explain the viscosity. Although Emily and other local beekeepers are sure there’s no crop of rapeseed in Ealing. I’d like to hope it’s heather which is jelly-like, but that’s probably not likely either. I’m thinking of sending a sample off to be tested.

        We can look at pollen colours in the hive for clues, although pollen collectors are not necessarily going to the same source as nectar collectors.

        I’ve also read some colonies fan off more moisture content than others. My first hive made gorgeous runny honey that I left a week before extracting and it spun out easily, and didn’t crystallise in jars for many months. Like you say, it is very interesting and I’m curious to know…

  2. I love this post Emma, so beautifully written, it evokes the wonder of nature whilst making your mouth water!
    I do hope you manage to extract most of your honey, I’ll do mine in a couple of weeks when the girls have finished with the late flowering herbs…

    Whilst we don’t have oil seed rape nearby, would nectar from other brassicas (from allotments) have similar properties? Though your bees won’t be finding fields of the stuff…

    • Thank you Sara 🙂 I’ll extract all that honey wringing every last drop with marigolds and muslin – and some will be cut comb again. Hard work but then our bees worked hard to make it 🙂 Yes, I wondered about nearby allotments, it’s a mystery I’d like to find out and why different colonies seem to make different viscosity as well as flavour of honey.

      • Mmm, cut comb sounds lovely!
        I’ve put a couple of foundation less super frames in to my Beehaus and am hoping that my girls will oblige…

      • I put foundation less frames in several of my hives last year. It’s another one of those bee-mysteries. Some hives drew it out, filled it and capped it like real troopers (yummy, clean wax and honey). Others continue to ignore it and the frames sit empty. Bees are curious and wilful little things 🙂

    • Melissa herb has a lovely history and the (emotional) actions of the plant essence seemed similar to Myrtle, so a lovely way to remember the old queen.

      Although as John pointed out to me, ‘Did Melissa kill Myrtle then?…’ Probably!

  3. People who consume honey should be mindful of the commitment many living creatures made to produce even the smallest quantity of it. Waste nothing.

  4. Someone on Facebook suggested that heather could be growing on golf courses… which made me think that there is a golf course near the apiary, I’ve cycled past it before.

    • I’ve wondered heather, although the colour of this honey is more amber with a pungent flavour. Perhaps there is some heather in it that gives the viscosity. I’ve now decapped all frames (except three in case we need to give some back to the bees at the end of Apiguard) and have a nice filtering system going in the kitchen.

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