28 August 2008

august days :: twenty eight

Amber gold...nectar liquid. We have fresh honey from my brother's hives!

How sugar-rich nectar from flowers is converted to honey is so amazing. Each year I share honey with students, as part of my attempt to add ecology, biology, and other sciences into their lives. First we taste and savor {I have had students who have never tasted honey before!}. Each flower's nectar is distinctly different in taste, which affects the color and taste of the honey, so I like to have several samples to "test". With that sweetness still lingering, we learn and discuss about the world of bees, their important role, and beekeeping. Lastly we learn the steps of making honey. Of course, this "lesson" takes several hours, which is spread over several days.

So, do you want to know the nitty-gritty of making honey, too? The worker bees (yes, they are the women of the hive) gather the nectar from flowers and return to the hive. In the hive, they swallow and regurgitate the nectar several times. Once the partially digested product is the right quality, it's stored in the honeycomb. Left alone at this stage, the nectar would ferment since it still contains a large amount of water and natural yeasts. The bees leave the honeycombs unsealed and use their wings as fans to slowly evaporate the excess water and condense the sugar to amber honey. Then the combs are sealed.

This honey? Notice how there are two distinct hues, one darker than the other. The lighter one is nectar from mandarin orange trees, up in Newcastle. Oh, yes, you can taste the hint of orange in the honey. The darker one is from the area by Rough and Ready. {I just love the name of this little town, don't you? It is the only mining town to have seceded from the Union, only to vote itself back in three months later so that they could celebrate Independence Day with the rest of the country. How fun is that?} Sorry...I can't remember from what flowering plant the nectar originated. But the overall "flavor" is much stronger.

A few of these jars are destined as sweet gifts of summer delight.


Bubblesknits said...

When I was little, our next door neighbor had hives. He would regularly bring mason jars of honey to the house, with a little rectangle of the comb in it. Although, I also remember when his queen decided to "escape" to the rafters in our front porch. All the little worker bees followed her and created quite the Stephen King scene. lol

Gotta Knit! said...