Waking up to the sound of yellowjackets in my bedroom while listening to a story on the radio about honeybee colony collapse disorder meant that I was destined to write about honey. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is occurring worldwide at an alarming rate with myriad causes ranging from predatory mites to pesticides to climate change. To combat this, local restaurants are cultivating their own honeybees in the city, right above our very heads.
Let me clarify this now: although yellowjackets are often mistaken for bees, they are not. They are dangerous, predatory wasps capable of inflicting multiple, painful stings!
At the Honey Harvest and Tasting sponsored by Founding Farmers and its apiary partner, George Washington University, the harvesting was led by Hartmut Doebel, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at GW, with assistance from Senior Beekeeper students and Founding Farmers’ own Director of Honey, Valerie Zweig.
This was very scary for me. I’m a city girl. I’ve never gotten stung in my life. Yet there I was on the rooftop of the science building with half a million bees buzzing all around me. The student beekeepers assured me that they were Italian and Russian bees, and that “the last thing they want to do is sting you.” Yeah, right.
First, Professor Doebel got them nice and relaxed by “smoking them out” (sound familiar, baby boomers?) so the beekeepers could remove 3-5 honeycombs for us to inspect. No one was stung (!) so we happily headed to the lab to harvest the honey.
In the lab, the beekeepers use a giant centrifuge to speed up the harvesting process. But they still have to remove the wax the old fashioned way. Even I got into it. Then the honeycombs are placed into the centrifuge and spun at high speeds. The result? A bucket of honey too heavy for any one person to lift.
We tasted a batch of 2011 honey as well as our own freshly-harvested honey. Yes, you can eat it right away. No processing needed. Founding Farmers had corn muffins, whipped butter and hot black tea ready to try the honey with.
The 2011 batch had a very lavender, almost perfumey taste whereas the 2012 batch was very true to flavor–very regal and sexy. That left me wanting a drink, yes, at 10 in the morning. Founding Farmers must have anticipated as they served ol’ time southern “Bees Knees” cocktails seemingly just for me. I left stuffed and sting-free. And my yellowjacket nest at home? Will have to be professionally removed by highly-trained apiary personnel.
1969-2014. As a child, Kelly was founder and president for life of the “Clean Plate Club.” Later, in college, she ate pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 6 days straight. Third-generation Washingtonian Kelly caught, cleaned and cooked her own seafood. She saw centers–convention, capital, shopping–rise and fall. And she could probably tell you what restaurant “used to be here,” but she never met the President. This refined (finicky?) fed found the ways and means to fine dine with a good wine.