Variety is the spice of life

Artisanal honey on the eastern shore made from a collection of flowers we've planted on our farm. Some are featured in this image.

Artisanal Honey

I live on the Eastern Shore and, I paint with beeswax. I became a beekeeper to support this sustainable art form, in the process, I got a whole lot more honey than wax. That coupled with my interest in cooking with whole foods motivated me to launch Waxing Kara Eastern Shore Honey.

Limited Edition Print "Broken Heart"

My hope is to play a part in raising awareness that raw artisanal and varietal honey is more than a mere table condiment. It belongs with the slow handcrafted category alongside spectacular small batch wines from a single variety of grape, single malt scotch, or maple syrups handcrafted in small batches from coveted regions.

In theory, bees forage as close to the hive as they possibly can, so beekeepers place hives near the plants they want the bees to visit, according to Daniel Weaver, past president of the American Beekeeping Federation. In reality, ultimately you can’t really control where bees go to gather nectar–their nature is to forage.

our apiary in the first bloom

Beekeepers help keep control of this process by taking advantage of the fact that specific plants bloom only at certain times of the year. For clover honey, for example, hives are put in the middle of hundreds of acres of clover during the period when the plants flower. But, bees sometimes travel miles in search of nectar, so there is no guarantee that some bees won’t feed on other flowers. From a trustworthy producer, clover honey will indeed come predominantly from clover blossoms, but it’s very unlikely that 100 percent of the honey will come from that one type of flower, Weaver says.

Clover blend field in our apiary

Varietal Honey

Experienced beekeepers consider local plant flowering patterns when planning hive location and the timing of blossom and timing of each honey harvest. Each varietal honey possesses distinct flavor and color. Within a single varietal, there can also be variations in these characteristics from year to year determined by weather patterns, soil attributes and other changing factors.

Blueberry Honey with Blue Cheese and fresh blueberries on the dock on the eastern shore for National Blueberry Month

Think of varietal honey (also known as monofloral honey) as honey from the nectar of a single plant variety. Artisanal honey exemplifies the adage, “Variety is the spice of life.” Artisanal honeys result from a mix of nectars from multiple flowers and trees in a location. When a honey is created from a large variety of flowers, it is generally labeled “wildflower honey” (whether those flowers really grow wild or are cultivated), but the USDA has established standards only for honey quality, not for labeling.

The mix is eclectic, delightful, unpredictable, and produces one-of-a-kind harvests. To help make distinctive artisanal honey, farm for bees. For example, I’ve planted nearly 1,000 lavender plants on the farm and having planted about 60 acres of a variety of wildflowers from bee balm (bergamot) to sunflower, clover, echinacea, black-eyed Susan, daisies and so much more.

In tandem with Consulting Ecologist Jeff Wolinksi, we identified the naturally occurring plant material on our farm. The artisanal honey is harvested seasonally. Spring Honey is lavender, tupelo, black locust (very floral), blackberry, blueberry, clover, herbs, milkweed, and apple, pear, tulip poplar and more; and Autumn Honey is largely sunflower, clover, wild berries, summer thoroughwort, bergamot, pine, cedar and goldenrod.

On the varietal side, we are working with a few incredibly experienced beekeepers from a variety of regions including the eastern shore the to offer an exceptional collection of honey. Check back often to see what is new on our Eastern Shore Honey page.

About the Author

Kara Brook

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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