When we first started keeping honeybees in 2009 (after we had rescued them from inside our wall), the first honey harvest was an life changing experience. As we tasted the honey our bees produced for the very first time, we were struck immediately by the difference in flavour. Wildflower Honey was not the honey we had known from the grocery store - all the same, very sweet, and squeezed from a bear. Instead, it was bright, and flavourful...you could almost taste the flowers. It was like summer in a jar. Instantly, we were wild about wildflower honey.
"What's so wild about Wildflower Honey?", you might ask. Well, it starts with the nectar of millions of wildflowers, collected by buzzing bees, flying freely in gardens, and meadows, and tree tops, busily from spring until fall. It's the wild way the flavour of wildflower honey changes across the season, and from season to season, based on the flowers in bloom.
Ontario, with its varied landscape of meadows and forests, produces some of the best wildflower honey you can find. Wildflower honey is a type of honey that is produced from nectar gathered by bees from multiple flower sources or varieties. However, it is much more than just that. Wildflower honey is a representation of a specific time and place, reflecting the flowers of a particular region. The colour and flavour of wildflower honey can vary tremendously, and there are potentially infinite varieties available. Each year, the taste and colour of the honey will differ from the previous year, and even from one backyard to another. This is why wildflower honey from different parts of the country and world can vary tremendously. It is a sweet taste of the region that it came from.
You might be curious to know why bees sometimes produce wildflower honey and other times produce monofloral honeys like blueberry blossom honey and raspberry blossom honey. Honey bees have a trait known as constancy or floral fidelity. This means that when foraging bees return to the hive and do their waggle dance to tell other bees where they found nectar, the other bees will follow their directions to the flowers precisely. If possible, they will continue to focus their pollination efforts on the same flower source. This is how monofloral honey is collected. However, if there is not enough of a single species of flower for the bees to collect nectar from, like in a big meadow, they will gather from multiple sources in the surrounding area, generally within a six-mile radius of their hive. For this reason, wildflower honey is more common than monofloral honey.
All these years later, Matt and I still eagerly anticipate every new wildflower honey harvest to see what the flavour of the season will be, and there's nothing quite like tasting honey straight out of a beehive! Some years, the honey is floral, other years its fruity. Some years it light coloured, and other years more golden. It is summer in a jar, for you to enjoy all through fall, winter and spring. What a gift the bees give us!
As we scoop each spoonful of wildflower honey, its worth remembering that this honey is not just any honey. It is a representation of a specific place and time, with a unique flavour and colour that changes from season to season. In the wine world, you would call this 'terroir.' We hope you are enjoying this year's 'vintage' as much as we are.