What is Varietal Honey?
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.”
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 a 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.
On the varietal side, we work with a few incredibly experienced beekeepers from a number of regions including Maryland’s Eastern Shore all the way to California to offer an exceptional collection of raw and delicious varietal honey.
Artisanal honey is made from plants that just so happen to surround the hive.
Artisanal honeys result from a mix of nectars from multiple flowers and trees in a location. When honey is created from a large variety of flowers, it is generally labeled “wildflower honey”. However, the USDA has established standards only for honey quality, not for labeling.
The variety of plant material on our farm produces one-of-a-kind, artisanal honey.
To make distinctive artisanal honey we farm for bees. For example, we’ve planted nearly 1,000 lavender plants and we’ve covered over 40 acres of land with a variety of wildflowers specifically planted for the bees. This year we planted a mix of clover in two large fields that worked to feed the bees (and the deer) quite well. We’ve timed these plantings in a way that our farm is producing nectar for the bees from early spring until late fall.
Other plantings include:
- Apple trees
- Pear Trees
- Walnut Trees
- Bee balm
- Gooseneck Loosestrife
- Butterfly Weed
- Fields of sunflower
- Several varieties of clover
- Black-eyed Susan
- Swamp Milkweed
- Joe Pye Weed
- Daisies of all kinds
- and so much more.
Do you know how honey is made?
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.
For more than ten years, our Apiary on Chesterhaven Beach Farm has been home to over 40 acres of land devoted to feeding bees.
Pollination is an essential part of the honey-making process. If you want to support honeybees, plant a pollinator garden for them. Take time from your day to watch honeybees forage from flower to flower.
Beekeeping for varietal honey is an art and a science
In reality, ultimately you can’t really control where bees go to gather nectar–their nature is to forage. 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.
Our artisanal honey is harvested seasonally.
Spring Honey is light and very floral. Made by the bees from the nectar or black locust trees, lavender, fruit trees, and early blooming wildflowers, it is completely unique to our farm.
Autumn Honey is largely sunflower, clover, wild berries, bee balm, pine, cedar, and goldenrod. This honey is much darker than its spring counterpart. This is due to a difference in nectar colors between early and late blooming plants.
I paint with beeswax and living on the Eastern Shore inspired me to become a beekeeper to support this sustainable art form. In the process, I got a whole lot more honey than wax. Glorious, delicious, unpredictable honey that tasted differently from any other than I have ever tasted. That coupled with my interest in cooking with whole foods motivated me to launch Waxing Kara Eastern Shore Honey House.
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.