Posts Tagged With: beekeeping

Sweet Desert Nectars

We start July with guest blogger Monica King, a rancher near Tucson Arizona, here to tell us about the product of her littlest, and busiest, “livestock.”

mesquite Monica King 605

With help from our friend, the honeybee, we can explore the palate of desert flora riches in a different way. These pollinators are beneficial to agriculture and two out of three bites you take you owe to honeybees! There would be little to no melons, strawberries, almonds, coffee or chocolate, just to name a few, if it were not for these busy tiny creatures.

As a worker honeybee heads out foraging, at around twenty-one days of age, they are not only pollinating, but also gathering many different flowers nectars.  But not all at once!  A foraging bee will visit the same kind of flower repeatedly on each excursion. This behavior is called flower fidelity. This is how pure honey is produced. I will get back to this.

honey monica king 005

A chunk of comb full of honey.

A worker bee’s tiny body can carry more than her own weight in nectar. As she is on her way home with her bounty the nectar is mixed inside her honey sac with an enzyme called invertase, which begins the nectar to honey transformation. Upon return to the hive she then transfers her load to her sisters which continue the process. These workers manipulate it in their mouthparts exposing it to try air and add even more enzymes. They then put it into a honey cell and the bees fan their wings producing a breeze, which mixed with the warm air of the hive, continues to reduce the water content. When it is dehydrated to 17-18% moisture it becomes pure honey. Our moisture content in Southern Arizona is more like 10% due to our arid environment. Once the bees fill a cell they cap it with wax for storage. It is at this time a beekeeper may harvest the excess.

cat claw monica king 055

Honey bee on cat claw acacia.

 

When it comes to honey from Sonoran Desert plants – there are two, local, well known spring harvests – mesquite and cat claw acacia.  In general, most local beekeepers will wait until the honey box is full and extract all the honey from one bee yard in one trip.  This is the less labor intensive way, and thus more economical. This honey is correctly called a Sonoran Desert blend. With each season being slightly different, no two harvests will be the same.

honey Monica King 001

But sometimes, you can find a beekeeper that doesn’t do things the simple, economical way – and they may have a pure cat claw acacia honey.  Cat claw acacia honey has a very light to almost white color and exquisite sweetness. This honey also has a heavy, thick texture and it will naturally granulate quickly.  My favorite way to savor this honey is spread like butter on toast or slightly warmed served drizzled over vanilla ice cream with fresh chopped local pecans.  Honey that granulates has not gone bad, and is just fine to use.

mesquite Monica king 607

Honeybee on mesquite.

Another specialty honey is mesquite.   Honey from the light colored mesquite flowers is transformed into a dark rich honey, smooth on the tongue, and may remind you of brown sugar or maple syrup. This honey pairs nicely with cheeses, especially Gouda, and makes wonderful BBQ sauces. When drizzled on blue corn pancakes you will think you are in heaven.

honey M King 002

Many beekeepers have their bees near agricultural or residential neighborhoods where the bees just don’t forage on native plants. I like to call this honey a desert urban blend and again it is very unique. The taste varies as the honey from some locations may have more clover in the area and other locations may have more citrus, etc.. Honey contains over 600 volatile organic compounds or plant-based essential oils, and these make it possible to have honey tested for pureness and provide the botanical and geographical origin. But the best way to know if your honey is pure, is to buy it from a local, respected, beekeeper.  And then you can taste the sweet desert nectars.

Monica King 001

Monica King is a rancher near Tucson.

 

 

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Within & Without: WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Aunt Linda here, on this breezy Tucson morning. IMG_7283 As I write, the full moon shines powerfully in the west, as it sets. The bee yard is aglow. The beams of moonlight bounce off the hives;  alight upon the honey house roof;  shine through west facing doors and windows. The bees are hunkered down in their hives this morning. They will not launch into their foraging flights as early as they did in the summer. They are solar beings, and navigate with the sun. Being past the equinox , and with less sunlight available, their first flight begin later and their return home in the evening, earlier. They are also affected by cooler temperatures,  and are not partial to the winds we have been having. We are all, bee and human, between night and day; between summer and winter. As the cycles of flow and blossoming  constantly change, so do the stores of nectar, pollen and honey within the hive. The “inside” of a hive here in Tucson reflects the light yellow color/light aroma of Mesquite Flows from earlier in season, to the darker, stronger tasting and smelling honey of desert wildflowers of late summer and fall. The pollen comes in different colors as well. So it is that bees, in the process of their practicality, create mosaics of pollen and canvases of honey, depending on what is available to them regionally and seasonally. Below: you can see the variation of color and texture of pollen both on the bees’s “pollen baskets” on their hind legs, as well as in their “mosaic” of pollen stores within the hive. IMG_2744

IMG_7186

See how this desert wildflower yields a bight orange colored pollen (back legs of bee) as compared to the lighter yellow in the above photo.

By now you may be reveling in all the colors and tastes (and smells!)  of honey. Visit your local beekeeper at a farmers market  or health food store this weekend, and see how real and raw honey differs from the “honey bear honey” sold on many grocery store shelves. Bees have “honey stomachs” that they use to carry nectar back from the flowers, and into the hives to produce honey. The variation in plant nectars account for the variation on types of honey.

DSC_7013

Note the difference in color of the  very light Mesquite Honey (in the exquisite photo ABOVE – taken by Ben Johnson; you can learn more about this talented man at ben@benjohnsonart.com) as compared with the deeper colored Cactus Flower honey (photo below).

IMG_7793 True Fall Wildflower honey is usually an even deeper brown (bottom photo) and has higher antioxidant levels, which may be better for our skin! IMG_7218  Within and Without:  WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Ingredients: raw honey and time How To:

This simple facial mask takes us from our own pores to the pores of plants.  As you can see in the photos,  the honey produced inside the hive literally reflects the environment around it. When we plant a garden or keep a hive, we move from being being a food consumer, to a participant in our food production. So, too, with our health products. It is wildly fun, and often more economical,  to use your own honey (or to purchase directly from a local beekeeper!!! That is a powerful act which moves you closer the “source”), than to purchase a  prepared product.

Honey has been used for skin repair and nourishment for thousands of years. Literally.  It is a humectant,  an anti-oxidant (darker, fall wildflower honey shows higher anti-oxidant levels than other types of honey,  in scientific studies),  and aroma “therapy” (is smells so, well, sweet!).

The idea here is as much about the Ritual as the Result.  Enjoy the smells and sensations WHILE applying the honey. Place the attention we so easily abdicate to the external world within once again. Our attention is rarely our own anymore, and a ritual as simple and everyday as washing our faces, can be a vehicle to practice enjoying the moment.

1) Exfoliate, however you like. This allows the properties of the honey to do their magic, without the barriers of dirt and oils.  Rinse. (Facials are not for everyday … at least not in my world.   I like to do the facial mask in the shower, on days when I wash my hair (which is not everyday) in order to utilize the humidity that the shower provides to open pores. (Water is a precious element in the desert, and I like to use Permaculture wisdom of “stacking functions” in order to lessen my water use.)    Truthfully, I do this facial mask less frequently than I should.

2) Right as you apply your conditioner, apply the honey to your face. Then wrap up your conditioning hair in a towel and step out of the shower  for about 20 minutes.  Who knows … during those magical twenty minutes you might even the feel the flights of the worker bees,  the “waggle dance” as specific foraging information is passed along,  the way the flowers tip and bend in the breeze, the smell of flower,  the sacred offering of pollen at dawn.  Once you have soaked up both the tangible and intangible properties of the fall facial mask, rinse (both face and hair, if you are doing a duo) and apply your favorite facial cream. Your skin will GLOW.

More Wild-Flower Foraging Fotos IMG_7193 The photo above shows how the hairs on a bees body gather pollen; note head on left bee. The photos  below show honey bees (and native bees) foraging in a variety of desert plants; and what “uncapped” honey looks like.   IMG_0748 IMG_1293 IMG_7804 IMG_1886 IMG_2173 IMG_7071

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.