Honey Tasting: Alfalfa Honey from Whidbey Island

In February I ran a 10k trail race at Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island, and while I was passing through I of course made sure to stop by any shop that looked like it might have local raw honey. At a little store called Eagle’s Song I spied a jar of alfalfa honey from Golden Harvest – The Bee Ranch.

Alfalfa honey from Golden Harvest - The Bee Ranch

This apiary is well-known in Seattle by those who frequent the Ballard Sunday Market, but I had never seen alfalfa honey at their market stand, which typically features their powerful lavender honey, plus wildflower and meadowfoam. Based on the quality of those I figured that this Alfalfa would be good.

Tasting

Sample of alfalfa honey from Golden HarvestThere is nothing exotic about this honey, and it is not particularly floral, unlike the other honeys I’ve tried from this apiary. Instead it has a satisfying, mouth-coating toffee character, enhanced by being crystallized and chewy. That’s why, when I could have any one of of my other more overtly impressive honeys, I keep stealing little bites of this alfalfa honey to chew on.

Where To Buy

Like I said above, I got this on Whidbey Island at Eagle’s Song Health and Wellness, but Seattleites can also ask at Golden Harvest’s table at the Ballard Sunday Market. On the Golden Harvest Facebook Page they say that they are selling at the farmer’s market in Seattle’s University District, as well as at Saturday markets in Port Townsend and Coupeville.

Honey Tasting: Honey Hole honey from Seattle

Recently I wrote about a honey collected in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, Audrey’s Honey, and last year I tasted Arboretum Wildflower Honey. Well here is another Seattle honey, from the Ballard area, collected by beekeeper Brad Hole. I got this sample when Brad was good enough to come to my honey tasting party in December. Of sixty-nine honeys from around the world, his honey turned out to be one of the favorites, especially among the people who went for the lighter-flavored honeys.

Honey Hole honey from Seattle

Brad Hole does beekeeping as a hobby, but does sell his honey in a few Seattle stores. It’s even made into hot toddies at a Seattle bar. Brad has his own Honey Hole Facebook page where you can follow his exploits and find out where to get his honey.

Tasting

Sample of Honey Hole honey. This honey comes on bright, citrusy and gently floral, with a distinct green melon background, almost like cantaloupe. It reminds me of the aforementioned Audrey’s Honey, except the green melon is much clearer here. Altogether it’s like summer in your mouth. It’s light-colored with lots of pollen grains visible, and its texture is runny (it hasn’t come close to crystallizing after months in my cupboard). Too bad I only have this tiny sample; I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the 2013 crop. Since this is a cottage operation, I’m sure each crop will be different. But what’s interesting is that the three Seattle honeys I’ve tried (all collected in 2012) have so much in common.

Where To Buy

If I hear of any more places that carry Brad’s honey I’ll update this post.

Honey Tasting: Audrey’s Honey from Seattle

This is a special honey in a number of ways. It’s made by a 16 year-old girl named Audrey, her bees do their work right in the middle of Seattle (in the Capitol Hill neighborhood), and all the proceeds go to Pollinator Pathway, an organization that creates green areas in Seattle. Best of all, this honey tastes really good.

Audrey's Honey, Seattle

I hope to someday interview Audrey for an apiary profile here. You can follow Audrey’s honey activities on her blog:

Audrey’s Buzz’n Honeybees

Tasting

Audrey's Honey up closeThis honey is distinctly lemony (I thought of lemon pie) and gently floral, with some green melon in the background. I also think of green grass but I’m not sure why. Overall it’s refreshing and long in the mouth. It’s texture is a bit lumpy, as though it is very slowly crystallizing into a smooth paste, which makes it fun on the tongue. Of all the honeys I have, this one reminds me most of Arboretum Wildflower Honey, which isn’t surprising since the Arboretum isn’t far from Seattle’s Capitol Hill area.

Where To Buy

Audrey only sells her honey through the Volunteer Park Cafe, which is in a residential neighborhood between Volunteer Park and Interlaken Park.

Honey Tasting: Nooksack River Wildflower from Guilmette’s Busy Bees

A new honey brand has appeared at my local store: “Guilmette’s Busy Bees” from Bellingham, Washington. Their lightly golden and thoroughly crystallized raw “Nooksack River Wildflower” has quickly become one of my go-to honeys.

Nooksack River Wildflower honey from Guilmette's Busy Bees, Bellingham WA

This apiary doesn’t appear to have a standalone website but I was able to gather some information from the interwebs and from the Guilmette’s Busy Bees Facebook page. The label says Bellingham, but the apiary is actually northeast of there in Everson, WA. The Nooksack river cuts right through town. Besides producing honey for local consumption (the Nooksack and a lot of Raspberry honey), beekeeper Skip Guilmette provides pollination services both locally in in California.

About this honey, Skip says “we always have the wildflower on hand and it is pulled from different areas of the river at different times during the year. So one honey may be light and another may be dark and have a stronger flavor. The bigger contributors to the Nooksack River crop would be field clover, sweet clover, blackberry, and maybe some maple. There are numerous wildflowers in our area as well so it’s a pretty good mix.”

Tasting

Nooksack River Wildflower honey, close up.This honey doesn’t taste at all strange (quite the contrary) but has a flavor profile unlike any other honey I own. I’ve tried two versions of it: one a medium-gold color (pictured) and a darker version. The lighter version is rich like light brown sugar and jasmine, with a floral background and a touch of citrus fruitiness. The darker version is very similar in flavor but even more distinct, with an added dimension that one person I had try it described as “pepper” or “spiciness”. I wouldn’t pass up either version, but given the choice I would go for the darker one.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with mixing honey with good coffee and with black tea, and this honey is one of the few winners for that use. With most honeys there are two possible outcomes: one, the honey flavor disappears into the drink, making it a waste of good honey (I might as well be using sugar), or two, the honey overwhelms the drink flavors or otherwise throws the flavors out of whack. But this Nooksack River Wildflower enhances good coffee or tea; the flavors dovetail and seem richer altogether. Because it’s so solidly crystallized it’s also fun to eat straight and dissolve in my mouth. All this explains why, with so many honeys filling up my kitchen crevices, my first large jar of this honey is half gone already.

Where To Buy

  • You can call Guilmette’s Busy Bees directly at (360) 398-0873 to leave orders or a name and number for a return call. They will ship at a flat rate; about 9 pints fit into a large flat rate box and it’s around 12 dollars to send.
  • Guilmette’s has two roadside shacks where you can purchase honey directly: one in front of their operation on South Pass Road in Everson, and another on Noon Road just east of Bellingham.
  • Guilmette’s sells their honey to a distributor in Kent called Crown Pacific Fine Foods, who were nice enough to list where the honeys are sold in the Seattle area: Central Market (Shoreline, Poulsbo, Mill Creek), PCC (Kirkland, Issaquah, Greenlake, Seward Park, Edmonds, Fremont, View Ridge, Redmond, West Seattle), and Whole Foods (in Bellevue at least). I found mine at Central Market in Shoreline.
  • Outside of Seattle, several stores in the Whatcom and Skagit county areas sell Guilmette’s honeys: Bellingham Community Food Co Ops, Whatcom Farmers’ Co Ops, The Market stores in Bellingham, Anacortes, and Birch Bay, the Green Barn in Lynden, and several other locations.

Honey Tasting: Barnaby Thistle from Cougar Canyon Apiaries

While traveling in search of late fall honey in the Okanogan area of Washington State I visited Cougar Canyon Apiaries. I already had a few wonderful honeys from this producer, and wanted the Silver Sage honey that beekeeper Ron Hull had told me about. That honey turned out to be amazing and will be the subject of a future post, but at the same time I picked up a number of other honeys Ron had available, including this Barnaby Thistle honey, harvested on August 15th 2012 from a place called “Fox Mountain”.

Here is Fox Mountain on a cold late fall day (the hives had sat somewhere up at the base of the hills):

Ron is able to get a number of different honeys from this area, depending on the time of year and the weather, which conspire to encourage the blooming of different wildflowers. Also, a wildfire swept through this area a few years ago, and different things have bloomed each year since then as the area has recovered.

The Barnaby Thistle honey has lots of pollen floating at the top, and I swear it has a slight greenish cast. As usual, Ron cautions that it’s mostly from Barnaby Thistle nectar, because it was in bloom, but that the bees were free to add in nectar from whatever else was around. Like other Cougar Canyon honeys, this one came straight out of a single hive (it’s not a mix of honeys from different hives) and was never subjected to heat warmer than the natural temperature of the hive.

Tasting

In one word, this is “candy”. It’s very thick and viscous in a way that makes it a joy to eat, since you have to press on it with your tongue to melt it. That viscosity makes its sweetness come on soft and round, but it is very sweet. Its flavor however is subtle and hints at caramel, toffee, butter and apple. If you wanted to pair this with food, it would have to be something that wouldn’t overwhelm it, such as herbal tea or ice cream. I just eat it straight, a little at a time. I’m glad I have a big jar.

Where To Buy

The Hulls sell their honey through Okanogan / Methow Valley area stores and in farmers markets. One good bet is the natrual foods store in the town of Twisp. Keep in mind that next year’s honey will be different. If you find any kind of Cougar Canyon Apiaries honey, just buy it.