Posts Tagged: honey
Is it organic?
And if you're a beekeeper, has a consumer ever asked you if your honey is organic? How do you know?
An inquiring mind--a beekeeper--asked Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology about organic honey. We thought we'd share his comments.
"The answer to the question about 'organic honey' makes sense only if the inquisitive person knows about the mechanics of producing any 'organic' commodity," said Mussen, who retired last June after 28 years of service but continues to maintain an office.
"There are a set of government definitions that set the requirements for producing many organic products – honey is not one of them. So, we try to play by the rules for organic livestock and organic plant producers. Basically, you have to find a 'certified organic certifier'who will certify your operation, at a cost. You have to develop a 'plan' that explains how and where you are going to keep your bees. Often the certifier wants them to be kept on previously certified organic farms. The likelihood of the bees just sticking around that farm for food and water are practically zero."
So true! Remember that bees forage four to five miles from their colony or within a 50-square mile.
"So, you have to pay attention to the possible locations of 'contaminated' food and water within a 50-square mile area surrounding your apiary," Mussen told the beekeeper. "Things that catch the eye of the certifiers are landfills, golf courses, heavily-trafficked highways, agricultural plantings, etc. where contaminants are likely to be encountered.
"Like milk cows, you are supposed to start, or develop over time, an organic 'herd' of bees. Like dairy cattle, if mastitis or American foulbrood shows up, the infected individuals have to be removed from the herd – not allowed to be killed – and medicated back to health. After a period of time--pretty long--following recovery, the no-longer-sick animals can return.
Mussen points out that "any honey harvested and processed has to be done so in just the right way: no contact with plastics or other synthetics--pretty restrictive on packaging and sealable covers, right?"
Bottom line: "Producing organic honey is nearly impossible around the state (California)," Mussen says.
Now, the truth of the matter, as cited by Mussen:
- Honey is hardly ever contaminated, even in areas of frequent use of possible contaminants. If the contaminants are very toxic, the bees will die when working with the nectar and the honey is never produced.
- Honey is a water-based product, so it does not mix readily with waxes and oils in the hive. Nearly all pesticides are petroleum-based compounds that do not mix well with water or honey at all. So, your honey is not likely to be contaminated no matter where you are. The more secluded your apiaries are from humanity, the better things will be.
Mussen says the United States "produces quite a bit of honey from crops within the center of commercial agriculture and we are not having problems with contaminated honey."
So, whether beekeepers wish to call their honey organic. is up to them. "You would have to become certified, then have occasional visits by your certifier, if you wished to be legal," says Mussen. "It will not change your honey. And, I have never heard of any certifiers testing honey for impurities."
Mussen further points out that the United States does not have a set of standards for organic honey production in as Canada and some European countries do. "We just borrow them from elsewhere!" He recommends this website for more information on organic honey: https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-food/organic-honey-standards.html.
Honey bee sipping honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
For years, uninformed folks have declared that honey is "bee vomit."
These things are inequitably false.
1. The world is flat.
2. Einstein said that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left."
3. Honey is bee vomit.
Yet people gleefully insist that honey is bee vomit. Why do they say that? Who knows? To make people stop eating it? To deter them from consuming honey as they eagerly spread it on their waffles, toast or English muffin? To make fun of people who love honey, a wonderful treat that's sometimes called "the soul of a field of flowers?" Sensational or junk "news," the kind that tabloids print without checking?
Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired this June after 38 years of service, says: "I make the distinction between honey bee regurgitation and mammalian vomit based on the fact that the nectar and honey being processed by the bees never have direct contact with food being processed, or expected to be processed, 'digestively' as is the food in a mammalian stomach."
"Although many sources refer to the honey bee crop as the 'honey stomach,' it is not a place where consumed foods are being digested in honey bees."
In their book, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, authors Dewey Caron and Lawrence John "Larry" Connor define the honey stomach as a a "honey sac."
It's "an enlargement of the posterior end of the esophagus in the bee abdomen in which the bee carries the nectar from flower to hive."
Bee vomit? No way. It's where nectar is stored. It's not a stomach as we know it.
Honey is not bee vomit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Not just on National Honey Bee Day, which is Saturday, Aug. 16, but every day.
This year's theme is “Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees.”
Some grassroots-minded beekeepers established the day in 2009 "to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion," according to their website. "Our commitment is to continue that philosophy."
"Oh, but I'm just one person!" you say. The NHBD's response to that is a quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797): "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
Here's what we did: We removed our lawn: no lawnmower, no edger, no lawn. Our garden is a bee garden. We planted lavender, artichokes (and let them flower), catmint, alyssum, cilantro, cosmos, tower of jewels, zinnias, guara, blanketflowers (Gallardia) sunflowers, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), lantana, California golden poppies, honeysuckle, salvia, oregano, African blue basil, sedum, peach, tangerine, pomegranate, lemon and other bee favorites. A drip irrigation grid system, timed to turn on at 4 in the morning, keeps the plants healthy, and the nectar and pollen flowing. It's a veritable oasis. It's a welcome mat. It's a pool of floral resources. C'mon in, the flowers are fine!
It's also important to select seasonal plants, especially for late summer and fall, when food resources are scarce. Avoid pesticides. Buy local honey. Support the bees. Support the beekeepers. Become a beekeeper or let beekeepers maintain their hives on your property, if you can.
Get involved with bees!
If you're like me, you love to photograph them. I can sit for hours in our bee garden and just watch them go about their bees-ness. Here are several of my favorite images:
Honey bee heading toward tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden bee (Cordovan) on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee on pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the taste of honey AND mead--coupled with a gourmet dinner on the UC Davis campus.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is sponsoring the Mid-Winter Beekeepers Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the foyer of the Sensory Building, Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Science, 392 Old Davis Road.
It's like "Bee My Valentine."
"The air will be redolent with the sweet smells of roasting lamb and flavored honey," said executive director Amina Harris.
It's billed as a Valentine's Day event and a celebratory meal benefitting the Honey and Pollination Center.
The main course features roasted lamb shank with rosemary infused sage honey, polenta squares with mushroom ragout, oven-roasted brussel sprouts with thyme butter, and Musqee de Provence with walnuts and a lavender honey glaze
The guests will start with these appetizers: Cracked Dungeness crab on Belgian endive and shitake mushroom soup shots. And the drinks, of course, will feature mead from Heidrun Meadery, along with sparkling water and a wine selected for each course. Salad is next: navel and blood oranges over winter greens with a tupelo honey vinaigrette.
Following the main course, a cheese course with honey comb will be served. For dessert: Häagen-Dazs Honey vanilla ice cream with old-fashioned butter cookies.
And then, a mead flight with three meads.
Harris says the printed menu will be something folks will want to take home. Vicki Wojcik, a member of the Honey and Pollination Center Advisory Committee and the research director at Pollinator Partnership, will add pollinator notes to the printed menu--indicating which foods are pollinated by bees.
The dinner, designed by Ann Evans and Mani Niall, will be catered by the Buckhorn, Winters. Evans is the founder of the Yolo County Slow Food, the Davis Farmers' Market and the Davis Farm-to-School Program. Niall is the author of numerous cookbooks including "Covered in Honey" and "Sweet." He describes himself as the "chief cupcake froster" at his newly opened Sweet Bar Bakery in Oakland.
Darrell Corti, an international wind judge, will lead the mead flight tasting.
Also planned: music and a silent auction. "Prizes are still coming in," said Harris, who can be reached at email@example.com. Tickets for the one-of-a-kind event are $125 per person, or a table for eight for a $1250 sponsorship.
It sounds like a bee-utiful evening, made possible by the bees!
Bee on honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You'll probably like lima bean honey.
Lima beans are a honey production crop, and this varietal is one of the six honeys to be sampled at the UC Davis Department of Entomology's free honey-tasting event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Briggs Hall. It's all part of the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen has been staffing the activitity at the UC Davis Picnic Day for more than three decades.
Every year Mussen tries to offer something new and/or different for visitors to taste. He's gathered everything from cotton honey to starthistle honey. (Starthistle, by the way, is his favorite, and is also favored by many beekeepers.)
This year, in addition to lima bean honey, the varietals are manzanita, pomegranate, orange blossom, almond blossom and northern desert shrub (from Nevada). (See the National Honey Board website for information on varietals.)
Honey bees are trucked to California from all over the country to pollinate the state's 800,000 acres of almonds. But have you ever sampled almond blossom honey? Most people haven't. It's rather strong and leaves an aftertaste, Mussen says.
What many folks are also eager to try is the reddish-tinged honey from the northern desert shrub.
The honey tasting will take place in the courtyard of Briggs Hall, which is located just off Kleiber Hall drive. Each person will be given six toothpicks, one for each varietal. Due to popular demand, two tables will be set up to accommodate everyone.
Guess which one will be the last honey to be sampled? Almond blossom honey. That's because of the aftertaste.
Honey-tasting is a popular activity at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee heading toward almond blossom. Almond blossom honey will be one of the honeys to be sampled at the UC Davis Picnic Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)