IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING . . ?
Questions: honey and honeybees
Where do the bees live?
Harry's Honey has hives in several locations (beekeepers call these out-apiaries) around the Cotswolds - in groups of 5 or 6 near Birdlip, Cheltenham, Winchcombe and out towards Cirencester. It's important to make sure that the bees are looked after so the out-apiaries are within easy travelling distance of one another.
When do you harvest the honey?
Honey is a natural thing and it is seasonal. Its usually possible to harvest honey in the late spring/early summer and then again in the early autumn but this is really dependant on how the weather has been. Cold and rain mean that flowers may not open or their whole flowering period may be delayed. Bees really don't like to fly in the rain either so they may simply stay at home. Generally, if we've all been moaning about bad summer weather, the bees will also have had a struggle to gather enough nectar to make honey and will have less honey to share.
Why is honey different colours?
Bees produce their honey by evaporating flower nectar in their hive so the colour of honey depends on the flowers the honeybees have visited - some give light nectar whilst others are much darker. Weather and location are big factors in the range of flowers accessible to a colony of bees so honey can vary in colour from hive to hive and from year to year.
What is raw honey?
The idea of "raw honey" is a really big thing right now. Some people are fed up with highly processed food - they think it tastes pretty horrid and they believe it has had all the natural goodness stripped out. If you feel like this, the idea of "raw" or "unprocessed" honey is appealing BUT there is actually no definition of "raw" as it relates to honey. What does "unprocessed" really mean and is it even possible when all honey has to be handled in some way to get it from the hive into a jar? Heating and fine filtering are often considered examples of "processing" but it's a tricky one.
Is your honey raw?
We handle our honey as gently as possible. Most importantly, we don't heat the honey to pasteurise it AND we only lightly strain it - to remove large chunks of wax and bee's legs etc. The important thing for us is that the filter lets through as much of the pollen as possible. We do strain the honey because we figure most people don't want bits of bee on their toast. If you would like completely unfiltered honey then let us know - its something we'd be happy to discuss. As there's no definition of "raw honey" its not something we put on our jars but we believe our honey is as good as it gets.
Can everyone eat honey?
Honey is a wonderful thing but it's not suitable for absolutely everyone. It's not suitable for children under 12 months old as their digestive system is not mature enough to deal with it safely.
Crystallisation - does it matter?
All honey will crystallise and become solid over time. Crystallised honey is a natural thing - the honey has not "gone off" or gone bad. In fact some people prefer it and you can buy something called soft set honey - which is actually just honey crystallised by the beekeeper before its bottled. The rate of crystallisation depends on several factors including the type of nectar the bees have harvested. It also happens with lightly filtered honey. The pollen grains in it act as a point for crystals to form around. Some commercial honey is highly filtered for this reason - in the belief that shoppers expect clear honey that takes ages to crystallise. Crystallised honey can be a bit difficult to spread through - if it bothers you, reverse the process by popping the jar in some warm water for a while.