Honey is the world’s first sweetener and it remains a favorite to this day. That distinct, warm flavor appears everywhere, from desserts to tea to glazes and more. But honey is also a work-intensive luxury that doesn’t come easy. Modern honey production isn’t as dangerous (or as painful) as it was for the majority of human history. There are cave paintings dating back to 13,000 B.C. depicting people using smoke to force bees away from their hives to get at the honey inside. Later, people began keeping artificial hives made of clay and straw, a process that didn’t change much until the Industrial Revolution saw innovations in the development of the moveable frame bee hive, an invention of Polish inventor and apiarist Johann Dzierzon.
This incredible device made it possible for people all over the world to keep sustainable honey farms without harming the bees themselves. This turned modern apiarists, like Washington’s own Mech family, from honey producers into a cornerstone of natural agriculture. Apiaries transport their bees all over their region to pollinate local crops, including nut trees, fruit trees and bushes and all varieties of flowers. Though their honey is delicious, the locals ought to also love Mech Apiaries for their contribution to the Pacific Northwest’s bounty of unparalleled produce.
Those apple and pear trees in Washington and Oregon, those berry bushes growing throughout the greater Seattle area, even those beautiful almond orchards in California all have apiarists like Doris and Don Mech to thank for their yearly blossom. Mech Apiaries has been selling the products of their buzzing work force at Pike Place Market since 1974. Every Saturday they travel from the lake-touched region of Maple Valley to Seattle to sell everything from raw honey to bee’s wax candles and even Doris’s home-made honey cookies.
Just a few years ago, Mech Apiaries suffered from the same catastrophic Colony Collapse Disorder that affected bees all over the world. They lost whole bee boxes in the process, but have persevered to keep bringing locally-produced honey to Seattle. Their Maple Blossom honey from the springtime flows is a favorite, though for something a little extra-special they bring out their Fireweed honey, care of the powerful Mount Rainier.
While it’s good on its own and practically begs to be included in baked goods, the Mech family’s honey also deserves some recognition for its use with other local products. That’s where the inspiration for this original Local Dish recipe for Honey Pear Salad Dressing originates.
Core and slice one pear of any variety and place the slices in a single layer in a large bowl.
Sprinkle a pinch of course salt over the slices to coax extra moisture out of them and then apply just a few drops of orange juice to each slice to prevent browning.
Let the fruit rest in the refrigerator for a half hour, then pour the liquid off into a small container.
Add one tablespoon of Mech Apiaries honey to the juice along with two teaspoons of milk or cream for body.
Whisk until the honey dissolves and drizzle over the pear slices resting on a bed of lettuce.
Add freshly ground pepper to taste.