Honey happens when thousands of bees commune with millions of flowers. Each of those flowers plays a role in the honey’s color, taste and mineral content, making for a unique, local taste – known as terroir – in every bottle. But those millions of flowers aren’t just sitting out on a buffet, waiting to be a bee’s breakfast.
In his book American Terroir, Rowan Jacobsen illustrates how hard a hive works for its yearly honey harvest:
“A honey bee will fly about three miles on a recon mission, and a hive will take advantage of whatever floral resources it can find, so most honey is sourced from a mixture of flowers…A hive might make a light spring honey from apple trees and acacia, then a dark fall honey dominated by goldenrod and knotweed. Numerous other flowers will contribute minor notes.”
Even if you’re not a plant person, you’re probably aware that plants don’t all bloom at once. Look around your neighborhood a few times a year. Wildflowers have a way of showing up for a few weeks, then shipping out, giving your surroundings a temporary refresh.
That’s because plants only bloom when conditions are right: sun, soil and so on. This timing varies hugely from plant to plant and region to region, so bees may be snacking on magnolia early in spring but move on to lavender when summer rolls around. (And they’ll find plenty of clover all year long, which blooms across the country for months at a time.)
So, because bees are constantly stockpiling different nectars and pollens, it’s only natural that honey would change throughout the year. But it’s on beekeepers to decide when to actually harvest it. If heavy rains are followed by a bumper crop of a bee-favorite plant like tupelo, a beekeeper may choose to harvest early and isolate that unique flavor. Or, they may move their hives a few miles down the road, mixing in a variety of other local flora for a better tasting final product. All the while, they have to tend to the health of the hive, ensuring that there’s plenty of honey – and a variety of pollen sources – to get by on.
No matter the season, making local honey can be quite a handful. That’s why we celebrate the hardworking American beekeepers who make it possible – and why we protect its local flavors by always bottling it raw & unfiltered.