Spring Honeys 2015

Maple Honey Mmmmmm

With the arrival of July, many local beekeepers will be harvesting this year’s spring honeys, if they haven’t already. When it comes to Washington honeys, the lighter-colored early season honeys can be every bit as interesting in their own way as the darker fall honeys. In fact I still count some local spring honeys among my all-time favorites. Following are some honeys you may see around town soon, if not already (I will update this page as I get new information). To know where to look, see my Where To Buy Raw Honey and Seattle Honeys pages.

Don’t Miss

  • Maple honey: for me, maple tree blossom honey is one of the glories of spring, except it arrives in early summer. A number of producers will have it, then it will be gone. Great maple honeys I’ve had in past years came from the Prairie Mountain Honey Company and from Backyard Bees. I also heard from Anne at Sunny Honey that Seth Smith of The Valley’s Buzz has produced a fantastic maple honey this year (you have to go to Concrete to get it). I haven’t yet tasted any maple from 2015 yet to know if it will be strongly lemony/minty or more caramelly (with less strong lemon). It depends on the weather. I prefer it as lemony as possible – it’s like bottled sunlight.
  • Sunny Honey: this year Sunny Honey already has a tasty honey from Moses Lake, plus soon there will be a lot of blueberry and raspberry honey from up near the Canadian border. Sunny Honey also has hives in Seattle but it’s not clear yet if that honey will be made available (that depends on how much can be harvested).
  • Seattle Urban Honey: this eight-year-old apiary has in-city hives. The early-season honeys I had last year were gorgeous, especially the one collected in Greenwood.
  • Rainy Day Bees: Fremont Early Honey, Shoreline Early Honey. These come from a small number of hives in the city, and will likely sell out in fifteen seconds. Last year’s early crop was beautiful.
  • Shipwreck Honey: their spring 2105 Alki honey is intensely floral and so good (it’s labeled as “Wildflower”, so find a Shipwreck stand and ask for it).
  • Urban Bee Company: I’m pretty sure that these folks are already extracting from at least some of their hives. I’ll update this when I hear more specifics, but in any case every honey I’ve had from them has been richly-flavored.
  • Buckwheat Honey: Karen at Brookfield Farm informed me that even though it’s the darkest honey you can get, buckwheat honey is in fact harvested at the same time as you would usually consider the usual spring honeys, or even before. This honey splits opinion; it’s dark, thick, and stinky. A friend of mine called it “hoof paste”. Altogether it’s easy to understand why many see Buckwheat honey as all kinds of wrong, but in fact it can be addicting if you get used to it. You know, kind of like what happens with cheese. The Sunny Honey shop at Pike Place currently has a 2015 buckwheat that is on the less-offensive side, in case you want to dip your toes in.

It Depends…

  • Blackberry and Raspberry honeys: lots of people go for these honeys, but for me they tend to be just sweet and one-note in terms of flavor, unless the bees went off-farm and picked up something else to make an interesting mix, as is the case with the amazing Craic honey I’ve written about earlier (the Craic in stores now is still the fall 2014 crop I think – don’t miss it). If you have never had raspberry or blackberry honey, then do try them if you see a raw local version. Raspberry honey can be very bright and I imagine it would be good on ribs.
  • Clover honey: “clover” is a catchall word often used for awful processed supermarket honey, though obviously there is such a thing as clover (more than one variety) and real, raw clover honey, which can be wonderful when fresh off the hills. My advice is, if you are traveling around the state and find freshly-harvested, unheated clover at a farm-stand or farmer’s market, give it a try. I had truly lovely clover honey when I was in central Washington.

Honey Tasting: Moses Lake Wildflower from Sunny Honey Co.

Moses Lake Wildflower from Sunny HoneyI picked up this spring 2015 honey yesterday at the Sunny Honey shop at Pike Place Market. I noticed that many people flowing through the shop passed over this in favor of the raspberry. One reason may be that the idea of raspberry honey is appealing. Also, tasting honey on a tiny stick won’t give you the full picture; something bright like raspberry honey will stand out more (usually I find raspberry honey too brightly sweet one-note, though I have to admit it can be nice). In any case those folks were missing out. This Moses Lake honey is super fun. Unlike the black-as-tar buckwheat I’ve had from that part of the state, this is nearly white and is quite waxy. It looks and feels almost like it was creamed, but in fact Anne from Sunny Honey told me that it turned out this way naturally, saying that it’s the result of pollinating many things: onion, radish, alfalfa, buckwheat, mint…


There is an unexpected barnyard smell in the jar. On the tongue the honey feels smooth and chewy from the waxiness. The flavor is softly sweet but also buttery / savory, kind of like butterscotch candy. I think of cookie dough in the aftertaste. Not exotic, but… yum.

Honey Tasting: Oregon Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin honeyHere is another honey I picked up at Minglemint on Vashon Island. Minglemint has lately been bottling their own brand sourced from local beekeepers, but luckily they still stock the excellent “Heavenly Honey” brand from Oregon (distributed by the honey-loving Hummingbird Wholesale company). I haven’t seen this brand for sale anywhere else in Washington so far, so naturally I grabbed this pumpkin honey when I was on the island recently. I have one other pumpkin honey in my collection, but it’s from the east coast and is very different from this one.


A strong smell of burned-marshmallow and vanilla pops out of the jar even before you taste this honey. There is a kind of subtle “stinky flower” background in the smell that you don’t get in the taste, which is strong and sweet with that same marshmallow-vanilla flavor. Altogether it reminds me a lot of meadowfoam honey, but I like it better since it’s not as one-note. The sweetness makes it too overwhelming to eat much straight, but it sure is good on toast. I’m curious why this tastes so different from the pumpkin honey I got from Red Bee in Connecticut, which is dark and super-rich and which has none of that marshmallow flavor (instead it’s more like molasses-caramel-apple). Perhaps the bees that made this Oregon version roamed off of the farm, as bees tend to do.

Honey Tasting: Craic Honey

Craic 2014 Fall HoneyI have a lot of honeys around the house, so it’s unusual when I go back to buy more of the same thing. This honey from the Craic Honey Company in Washington’s Yakima Valley is one of those exceptions. I’ve gone through more than two large jars, and also gifted a few. None of the jars have tasted exactly the same (though similar), but all have been good.

According to their website, Craic is named after an Irish word (also their family motto), meaning something like “fun, joyful conversation and generally a good time.” I’ve seen this dark honey at PCC but never got around to trying it, but when it showed up at Central Market in Shoreline, WA I finally bought some. Craic sells their dark honey in jars, while all of their light honey goes to the Iron Horse Brewery, who use it in their High Five Hefe.

I talked to beekeeper Kim at Craic to find out what went into this dark honey. She said that it comes from pollinating 2014 raspberry crops all through the Yakima Valley from White Pass to Patterson / Midfield. But while doing that work, the bees go to other nearby plants such as sagebrush, knapweed and rabbitbrush (chamisa). That goes a long way towards explaining how this honey ended up with its combination of brightness (raspberry) and funky richness (everything else).


Upon opening the jar this is a strong-smelling honey: propolis, barnyard, and something like sap or an herbal cough drop. The taste is not so funky, but instead unexpectedly bright and long-lasting, with a rich rootbeer-like quality and a sense of burned sugar. The first jar was obviously a different batch, since it’s much more runny and has a distinct bitterness like a chestnut honey that the other jars I’ve tried do not have. I like both versions and can’t decide which is better, but no matter – I’ll just keep getting more of it.

Honey Tasting: Dark Macadamia Nut Tree Honey From Hawaii

Medium Dark Macadamia HoneyHere is another gift from traveling friends, this time Arlene and Richard, who went to Hawaii and found this honey off the beaten path.

Beekeeper Len Skyles collects this honey from hives around Kurtistown in the Puna area of the big island of Hawaii. His bees help pollinate local crops, this time macadamia trees. “Medium Dark Macadamia Nut” is hand-written on the label. I’ve previously had a couple different jars of macadamia honey, and it’s always good, but this one is really special.


The honey is already crystallizing into big rough granules, but some liquid honey always seems to be on top. It smells brown-sugary. The flavor is strong but immediately appealing with a syrupy sweetness that offsets its dark undertones. A wave of fruit comes next, like some sort of cooked-down tropical fruit concoction with brown sugar. It’s pretty darn tasty, and I really need to visit Hawaii.