What do you know about Regents Park? For me it is Open Air Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning walking her dog. It’s the zoo and herbaceous borders; it’s a huge gothic drinking fountain and a rose garden to hear secrets in. Now, what would all of those things taste like?
I’m learning to take a bee’s approach to life. ‘Yes, you may be very beautiful, you blowsy hybrid bloom, but what’s your nectar like?’ Not just me – as city gardeners become more aware of the flowers that offer the nectar that bees need, city honey is becoming more and more prized. Where country ‘wildflower’ honey may in fact offer refined nectars from a limited range of hedgerow flowers that are still reeling from decades of pesticide use, honey produced by city bees can combine nectar-rich varieties such as cosmos, geraniums, mint, rhododendron, sunflower and wallflowers that can grow all together in carefully-tended gardens.
So what does Regents Park taste like? We can let the bees tell us, because there are hives kept there, in the Pure Food Apiary. Or you can let the bees whisper it to me and I’ll tell you what I find in this jar I have in front of me.
Honey is often described as ‘golden’ but in fact it is frequently not the colour of any precious metal I’ve ever seen. This honey, however, is exactly the colour of the bracelet my grandmother left me in her will, a gleaming dark gold. It has a caramel scent with a herbal edge to it – smelling like a delicious mild cough pastille. The taste is different of course, and it has dominant citrus and raspberry leaf flavours.
It’s an extremely fine honey and though I know it would taste fabulous in sandwiches, I’m trying to think of a serving that would be worthy of it (this is, after all, the honey made from the flowers in the park where Elizabeth Barrett Browning walked her dog). It would go well in baking, with nuts (I’m itching to try it with almonds, for example) and its lemony tones would team brilliantly with ginger. But I am being tempted to some crazier combinations. Drizzled on broccoli, for example? Maybe with the ginger too? I’m going to try it and I’ll let you know.
My book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo was published last month by Signal Books. The Times describes it as ‘a sheer delight; a beguiling, bittersweet story of a lively love affair with a traditional world – as ancient as apiculture – in transition to new nationhood’