There’s a distinct autumn chill in the air signalling an unmistakable end to the summer. However, the brighter news is that after a few worrying seasons, 2013 has been a good year for bees. This is a happy tiding not only environmentally, but also for honey lovers. What could be more tempting than rich, golden honey drizzled on chunky, warm toast on a chilly, misty autumn morning?
Opening the honey jar
Have you ever considered keeping bees? Along with domestic chicken keeping, amateur apiculture is growing in popularity. Not only is it good fun, but it produces the most divine, fresh honey and encourages fruitful gardens all around. There are lots of beekeeping associations around the country that can help you to get started and endless uses for the honey you will produce. Most small scale keepers will only get enough honey for personal use, but home produced honey also makes a fabulous gift in pretty honey pots.
You will need a certain amount of equipment, such as a hive, frames, wax sheets, mouse guards, feeders, a bee suit and gloves and a smoker. A starter hive kit will often provide you with all your essential kit in one handy package.
Once set up, you’ll be ready to take delivery of some bees, usually available from fellow beekeepers or specialist breeders.
Fingers in the honey jar
If you’re keeping bees, you will learn all about making and storing honey. However if you’re not quite ready to make the leap to urban beekeeper, it’s easy to buy good quality honey. Of course there are the basic varieties available at any supermarket, but you could try delving into local honey. Not only will this help to support the local micro-economy, you will find a surprising depth of flavour absent from mass produced products. As an added bonus, there’s also a popular idea that consuming locally produced honey can help to prevent or alleviate hay fever symptoms in a similar way to homeopathy, by exposing sufferers to small amounts of the relevant pollen which helps them to develop an immunity.
Like any food product, honey must be correctly stored to maintain best condition. It’s a natural substance with a good shelf life but can ferment upon exposure to too much air and heat. Invest in a specially designed honey jar with an airtight lid and store it in a cool, dark place. In addition, an attractively designed honey jar with a special, beehive design honey serving spoon looks wonderfully cute on a table laid for afternoon tea.