honey_dreamstime_s_26364925

Honeybees. No matter whether you love ’em or hate ’em, they are an endangered species these days.  Under fire from a host of environmental hazards, bees have become the darling of local farmers and backyard gardeners eager to offer a few much-needed alternatives to imported, and potentially un-pure, honey and other sweeteners.

At the recent 2nd Annual Oregon Honey Festival, a growing community of beekeepers and producers of honey products came together to educate the public about the importance of buying local or regionally harvested honey, or at the very least, getting it from small batch U.S. honey producers.

Here’s a few bee facts:

  • Bees travel as much as 3 miles in their search for pollen.
  • Honey contains an antioxidant that improves brain function.
  • It takes the entire life of 12 bees to produce one teaspoon of honey!
  • The buzz from bees is created by their wings, which stroke 200 times per second.
  • Pollination by honeybees is vital for food production.

Now that’s something to admire. Here are a few standouts from the Festival. For honey producers near you, go here to search by state. It’s not a complete list, so check for local honey at your local farmer’s market or farmstand.

IMG_0267

Noah’s Bees, located in Southern Oregon, is at the forefront of honey infusions. My favorite was the Spun Vanilla, with remnants of vanilla seeds mixed throughout giving a smooth, refined flavor and scent. This would be ideal for holiday baking, your favorite chai tea or coffee, or a simple Honey Vinaigrette to drizzle over winter fruit salads. Check their Facebook page for new holiday inspired gift sets.

IMG_0265

I’ll bet you didn’t know that bees can make honey from pine trees. Located in Keno, Oregon, Davitt Apiaries is surrounded not by agricultural land, but by acres of pine forests. Their “free range” bees forage on the sap produced by aphids in the pine trees and the resulting Ponderosa Pine Honey, with its characteristic pin-ey flavor of varying strength, is actually favored as a sweetener by some coffee lovers.

IMG_0269

A few weeks ago I had the gastronomic pleasure of eating a very decadent Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Rogue Creamery, located in Central Point, Oregon. Not your average GCS, it was oozing with their Sharp Cheddar, Rogue Blue, and honey encased in New Sammy’s Sourdough Bread. Well, fast forward to the Festival and the source of all those ingredients came full circle. The Creamery has taken the next step in sustainability with the addition of honeybees to their dairy farm. Owner David Gremmels is out to save the bees, too. With plantings of wildflowers, oregano and buckwheat on the farm, the bees are happy their travel time is greatly reduced. Happy cows, happy bees….happy customers.

For a more thorough look at what bees are facing and why changing our behavior towards them is critical, watch this:

Images: Barb Magee