Beekeepers are sharing people. It’s a craft, or a science, best learned from others in situ, not from books. Just as I was tutored by Adem on his smallholding in north-east Kosovo, 2km from the Serbian border, most beekeepers owe their knowledge to someone who held their shaking hand the first time they opened up a hive, the first season they harvested the honey, the first year of watching the rhythms of the colony and spotting anything that should be fixed.Perhaps we learn from the company we keep – bees are great role models for the benefits of collaboration.
I’m discovering beekeepers are great at sharing their honey, too. Since the launch of this blog I’ve received numerous little pots in the post, from beekeepers offering me their honey to sample. It’s like receiving a photograph of a garden, or uncorking some magic phial with a whiff of the past. You should be able to work out the terroir just by dunking your finger in for a taste of the concentrated nectar of the one million flowers bees have visited to make one hundred grams of honey.
So here is what I get from the small pot that arrived from Irene in Warwickshire. It has the subtle buttery scent of clover honey and the pale buttery colour of honey from acacia flowers. On first taste there’s a lanolin musk underneath the sweetness, and a lovely soft crystalline structure that means it melts on your tongue with a pleasant coolness. It’s sweet like fruit, not like candy. I really like this honey.
Of course I have no idea if I’m right about the clover, the acacia, the fruit tree blossom, but this is the garden that I’m taken to as I roll this honey around my mouth. And it’s a fine kind of meditation – I recommend it as a challenge. Go and buy some honey from a farmer’s market or your nearest shop today. Take a whiff, and close your eyes and then take a taste. Where are you?
You can read more of my honey-tasting adventures in my Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published last year with Signal Books and available through bookshops and on Amazon.
PS How exciting! This blog won Belvoir’s ‘Lovely’ award (‘We like to reward the people who are doing what they can to make life a little lovelier for everyone’) for January. Thanks so much to those who voted for it 🙂