Ode to the Honeybee: The Honey Pavilion at Taste | Civil Eats

Ode to the Honeybee: The Honey Pavilion at Taste

“As the principal source of intense sweetness for humankind until the mastery of the crystallization of sucrose, honey has carried an immense symbolic, mythic, and psychological load. This has been conditioned in part by the somewhat mysterious nature of its production, as a by-product of the survival of plant-species by insect pollination” (Sydney Mintz, 1996).

Honey was the original locally available sweetener before sugar was elevated from spice to essential cash crop in the eighteenth century. Now, in understanding the burden sugar places on the land and local economies abroad, we can turn to the same sweetness famously sought by bears in order to be locally-minded again.

The honeybee is an essential partner in fruit-bearing, as we were reminded after the recent threat to bees that manifested in hive disappearances last year. Priscilla Coe, apitherapy expert and beekeeper, is the curator of the Honey Pavilion at Taste August 30 and 31. She is currently involved with The Melissa Garden, a 40-acre bee sanctuary in Healdsburg, planted with botanicals that offer native year-round nectar and pollen sources honeybees are known to favor. Always a gardener, Ms. Coe sees beekeeping as an extension of a healthy garden.

The Honey Pavilion at Taste will be a celebration of this industrious and mysterious creature, including two beeswax quilts on loan from local artist Jehanne Hale, a sealed observation hive so visitors can experience a honeybee colony, and molds of the inside of a hive and beeswax bees on display, which are being made for Taste by Second Office Architects in San Francisco. Information will also be available on honeybee plants and pollination.

Producers at Taste will include Katia Vincent, owner of the Beekind honey and beekeeping supply store in Sebastapol, who will be present on Saturday to debut two of her infusions, chai honey and lavender honey. Also on Saturday, coffee and peppermint infused honeys from Mockingbird Meadows in Ohio. On Sunday, Rebeca Krones of Tropical Traders Specialty Foods will be at Taste with her organic Hawaiian varietal honeys, including Christmas Berry, Lehua and Macadamia Nut Flower.

Earlier on Saturday at the Honey Pavilion, “Taste of Bay Area Terroir,” will be introducing tasters to Bay Area multi-floral honeys. There will be honey from San Francisco, Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Contra Costa County. “Many Bay Area honeys taste prominently of eucalyptus, a widely prevalent tree in the Bay Area which honeybees start visiting in the winter,” said Ms. Coe. Later in the weekend, the tasting will include popular American varietal honeys such as clover, alfalfa, tupelo, buckwheat, and California Sage.

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I asked Ms. Coe how honey acquires its flavor. “The honeybees are the original gastronomes. They have excellent taste in combining various nectar sources into multi-floral honeys. The bees will fly up to five miles distance from their hives, and seek out high volume nectar sources to insure food for the hive,” She said. “They also have a refined appreciation for nectar from many plants, including culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro and all the mints.”

Honey cupcakes will be served at the Honey Pavillion at Taste. Ms. Coe also enjoys using honey to make an easy Greek spread, Tahinomelo, made from a blend of two parts sesame tahini, and three parts honey, with pistachios sprinkled on top just before serving. Make it at home, and enjoy it with an herbal tea, such as lemon verbena or mint, which she said, make great accompaniments to honey.

Photos by BugMan50, jamesmorton, Jehanne Hale and kthread

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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  1. I'm going to be putting a hive in my garden next year. My grandpa & my dad were in to beekeeping when I was younger. My dad's going to help me with it and do some of the work with me. Should be fun! I'm looking forward to the delicious honey!
  2. wendy
    Hi Paula!
    Thank you so much for this post. I just made a short film called Every Third Bite about bees and CCD. You can watch it on the media that matters film festival website:

    Looking forward to visiting the honey pavillion!

    Very best,
  3. A honey pavilion sounds wonderful, I'm very excited. Happy to see my picture here too! :)
  4. Ana Maria
    I stopped by The Melissa Garden's website. A sanctuary for bees! Love it. Hey, even bees need refuge.
    See you at SFN (we're bringing some truly luscious alfalfa and sweet clover honey to Taste).
    Can't wait for those honey(cup)cakes!

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