Sure, you could pick up a jar of honey from your grocery store, but we have a better idea: Source it locally. Local honey produced by bees right in your area not only reflects the flavors of your community, but it also has many environmental benefits. Read on to find out why we’re buzzing about local honey, whether you enjoy it pure or use it in recipes.
Why Bees are Important
First things first: Let’s back up and explain why protecting your local bee community is crucial on many levels. Simply put, honeybees pollinate 80 percent of our plants and crops—without them, our food supply would collapse. Bees also provide important materials used in medicine, like wax, pollen, and propolis, which is a natural antibiotic.
“If you really immerse yourself into beekeeping, you see how, in an ecosystem setting, everything is connected,” says beekeeper Michael Slaby at Mellifera e.V., an OXO 1% for the Planet partner organization that protects bee habitats and promotes respectful beekeeping. “There wouldn’t be any fruits without the bees, without the blossom.”
Mellifera advocates for bees through a variety of programs, including Network Blooming Landscape (a project where empty spaces are filled with bee-friendly flowers) and Bees at School, where they teach children about bees and how to interact with them. For this program, OXO and Mellifera are partnering to provide elementary school students and teachers with bee experience sets that provide full immersion into the world of bees.
How to Protect Your Local Bee Population
Since bees are so important to our local communities and overall ecosystem, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to protect them. The two easiest steps, Slaby says, are planting bee-friendly flowers (like honeysuckle, sunflower, and dahlia) and purchasing locally produced honey. “If you’re buying a honey that is industrialized and pasteurized, it’s not very supportive for the beehive and the bee population,” says Slaby.
Make Your Own Infused Honey
If you ask Slaby, the best way to eat honey is in its purest form—that way you really get a sense of the community it came from. “A regionally harvested honey conveys the aromatic profile of the region,” he says. But if you want to experiment, it’s easy to infuse flavor into your favorite honey. Infused honey can be used in salad dressings, as glaze for chicken, in honey cornbread, or drizzled into your morning coffee. Here’s how to do it:
- Several handfuls of fresh herbs (try lavender, rosemary, or mint)
- A pint of local, natural honey
- Take a clean pint jar or Smart Seal container and fill it halfway with your chosen herbs.
- Fill the jar with honey, leaving about a half-inch to inch of space at the top.
- Place the jar in a cool, dark place and leave it there for at least three weeks, turning the jar over at least once a day.
- Do a taste test. If you want a stronger flavor, let it infuse longer. If it’s good, strain out the herbs using a colander or a mini-strainer that fits over the jar mouth.
- Store the finished honey in a cool and dark place.
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