We're often asked 'What do the bees do in the winter?" quickly followed by "What do YOU do in the winter!?" Well, this time last year, we drove to the Sunshine State for a little dose of honeybees in the dead of winter.
Here is the first honeybee we spotted, on a Dr. Seuss-like flower, aptly named a 'Powder Puff' (Calliandra haematocephala) . Hedges of them lined the street we stayed on and they buzzed with honeybees!
You'd think we might want a break from bees and honey, but these bright pink flowers had us curious...what does Floridian honey taste like? We couldn't help but wonder. So, the following Saturday we headed to the nearest farmer's market to find out....
The farmer's market was packed, with vendors, shoppers, and fruits and vegetables! Although we we were hunting for honey, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the citrus stands... grapefruit, oranges, and the sweetest Meyer lemons. I am a lemon fanatic...I peel them and eat them whole like a true freak. These lemons are by far the best I’d ever had! Here in Ottawa, it’s so wonderful to pick fresh vegetables from our garden or pick up from the farmers market. Hadn‘t ever dreamed about fresh lemons! Phenomenal pink grapefruit too!
Anyhow....I digress... Next to the mountains of oranges, we spotted our first Floridian honey. Could there be anything more iconic than orange blossom honey? (Well...perhaps Van Morrisons’ Tupelo honey...more on that one below). Matt wasted no time trying it and the orange flavour was remarkable!
The flavour of honey is influenced by the flowers the bees visit to make it, and this orange blossom honey came from the beehives pollinating Florida’s orange groves. What other flavours would we find here...
On the other side of the market, we found the local honey vendor. Again, Matt wasted no time. I think we tried them all and we left with far too many...it was silly...black mangrove honey, avocado honey, Tupelo honey, mango honey, gumbo limbo honey, key lime honey, and others. Many were very dark honeys with strong flavours. Matt’s favourite was the Midnight Jasmine, an extremely rare honey from a flower that apparently bees can only visit in the early evening since it blooms at night. My favourite was by far the key lime honey (from groves of key limes)...a light limey honey that tastes just like key lime pie!
Tupelo honey, we learned, is not just the title of a great Van Morrison song...it is also a rare honey from just one region in the world - the Florida Panhandle and a slice of southeastern Georgia where the Ogeechee tupelo trees grow in the swamps. The nectar from these trees produces a honey with a high ratio of fructose to glucose, and the result is a honey that never crystallizes.
Floridian honey is varied and in general tends towards fruity flavours whereas our Ontario honey tends more towards floral notes. Even with all these different flavours, I still missed ours, especially in morning coffee. I accidentally stirred a teaspoon of orange blossom honey into my coffee, and the coffee-orange combination was not a good one :S
We had a wonderful time, with great day trips like shark tooth finding at Venice beach, touring the Ringling, visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth, and spotting manatees. And of course we snapped pics of the honeybees we met along the way 🐝
🎶 She's as sweet as Tupelo honey, she's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as Tupelo honey, just like honey from the bee 🎶
~ Van Morrison ~