Celebrating Rosh Hashanah fills me with happiness. The holiday is filled with traditions that date back to thousands of years.
It is the time of year when we dip apples into honey and celebrate new and sweet beginnings.
To me, honey is a sweet childhood memory.
This reality started for me with a tasting I did with my sister, who took a great interest in what I was doing with the bees right from the start. She had no idea that all raw honey from different regions had different tasting characteristics; the appearance, aftertaste, body, and bite differing with each. To prove it, I lined up several jars of honey on the counter and I drew a small taste (a drop or so) of each varietal. One at a time, she delighted in the experience, detecting the subtle earthiness, fruitiness, bitterness, and sweetness in each taste of a different varietal.
I noticed over the years that this is the theme with most people who are first discovering honey. People taste many until one varietal or another strikes a chord… a memory. For my sister, the memory was with orange blossom honey. She immediately said, “this reminds me of Rosh Hashanah.” When my husband mentioned that before he knew me, one jar of honey lasted him 30 years, I realized that he too had honey only once a year, for Rosh Hashanah.
Celebrating Rosh Hashanah as a Beekeeper
As I celebrate my ninth year as a beekeeper, I’ve grown to love and appreciate the beauty of honey. The rhythm of honeybees in the apiary is equivalent to a symphony. Honey is an ancient and biblical food that feeds the mind, body, and soul. On Rosh Hashanah, it holds even more of a special place in my heart.
We dip challah in honey in hopes of a sweet new year. We begin the meal on the first night of the holiday by dipping apples in honey. The problem with this is, most families don’t know that they’re not actually serving their loved one’s honey. Grocery-store honey can be diluted with additives. Simply put, it isn’t as good for you as raw honey from someone you know and trust.
This is why we have been dedicated to nourishing our land and providing for the bees for so long. On Chesterhaven Beach Farm, we’ve planted over 40 acres of wildflowers specifically for the bees. We have a mutually beneficial relationship with nature where we provide what the bees need. In turn, they provide us with what we need from them. Our honeybees help us make raw, unpasteurized, certified kosher honey that we’re proud to share with our friends and family.
Producing beautiful golden honey is only one part of the equation. Taking care of the land, and the ecosystem as a whole, is vital for everything I do as a beekeeper. Honeybee colonies are a super-organism in which neither can live without the other. Each bee alters everything they collect from nature into something better and oh so sweeter.
The Bees and the New Year
Without space for our pollinators to live and work in, the environment around us will drastically change. Many plant species, from those we eat to the roadside wildflowers we enjoy during the summer, rely heavily on honeybees for their pollination efforts. Honeybees are responsible for one out of three bites of the food we eat. The reduction of pollinator populations threatens flowering plants globally and potentially causes spikes in costs for around 75% of the crops we find necessary. In supporting your local beekeepers, you’re helping to keep a vital part of the ecosystem thriving.
Monoculture farming reduces the diversity of what bees can pollinate. Once a monoculture field has stopped blooming, bees have nothing to left to pollinate.
Globally, millions of acres of natural land are cleared for industrial, agricultural, and residential uses each year. In losing this habitat, we’re losing wildlife and environments that create diverse and healthy ecosystems. You don’t need to be a beekeeper to help! You can create a haven for bees and other insects in your own backyard by planting a pollinator garden at your home. These gardens are beautiful, low-maintenance, and easy to care for after they establish themselves. In setting aside a small patch of land for native plants that bees, butterflies, and birds will love, you’re giving them a place to be protected from human activities.
This year, consider supporting your beekeepers and sharing honey that is as raw and real as nature and the bees intended. Not only are you doing good for the local economy, but you’re providing a pure source of joy for your family and friends.