We spoke to a local beekeeper, Peter Hoskins, to understand what goes into producing our favourite Rosh Hashanah treat, and making sure you are getting the real thing.
Hello Peter! Tell us how it all works with our clever little bees!
At Calverley Beekeepers, we keep bees in wooden hives these days, they begin by making honeycomb out of wax, although we start them off with sheets now, they intuitively make the hexagonal shapes that they build on top of each other which will store space for the queen to lay eggs and to store honey. An American called William Langstroth discovered what we call the bee space, which is the space bees need (seven eighths of an inch) to pass each other in a hive. And if they can pass each other then they’ll make honey.
Once the queen bee has been selected in the hive, after a worker bee has been fed royal jelly which alters them into the queen bee form, after three weeks she will go out foraging for the first time. This means she can direct her scouts to find nectar for the hive.
After collecting the nectar, they ingest it into their stomach which then reacts with an enzyme which helps the water to evaporate in the mixture, just leaving behind the sugary substance. The bees then regurgitate that mixture for other bees to put in a wax cell at a temperature between 33 to 35°C, when the water content of the mixture has evaporated until its less than 20% water, this is when honey is created. They’ll cap off the cell with wax ready for the winter.
What is the difference between your honey and that from a local supermarket?
We don’t do anything to the honey in the hive other than filter out little bits of wax. So, we cut off the wax with a knife or a special uncapping tool then we’ll spin the frame with a centrifuge and what comes out the tap goes straight into jars. There’s nothing done with it.
Whereas what they sell in supermarkets is another story. Most supermarkets sell a jar of honey for around 75p which is ridiculous because it’s not honey. Companies who import honey into the country have found a way to turn sugar syrup into a honey-like formula. So it’s possible that the cheap honey that you buy from the supermarket has never seen the inside of a beehive, which is why local honey tastes so much better by contrast.
Honey is a well-known herbal remedy, does it really have all the healing properties that we hear about?
Many people swear by local honey to help their hay fever, now I’m not a doctor, but they think it’s because, if the honey is local, it has the same pollen in it which you could have a reaction to. So, by ingesting it you create antibodies for the pollen and don’t react to it so badly.
We do have a problem though with New Zealand Manuka Honey, which they claim it has all these health-giving properties but at the Yorkshire Beekeepers Association Conference we were able to analyse it and find it was similar to other honey in the world, other than having a higher potassium level. So, you’ve got to be careful of believing everything you hear.
If you want to find out more about Peter’s honey, or to buy some for Yom Tov, get in contact at 0794 157 5438 or on Facebook @Calverleybeekeepers