They keep making movies about the end of the world, usually featuring Tom Cruise running as fast as his short legs will carry him – to battle the evil alien forces. But we can look closer to home for signs that the end is nigh. Not the melting ice caps, nor the disappearing rain forest, but the steady dying off of bees.
In the last 10 years we have lost 30% of our bees. The reason is long and complicated; it has to do with diseases that the bees are unable to successfully fight and the increased use of ever more powerful pesticides in the countryside.
The pesticides work on the bee’s brains and render them confused and unable to find their hives.
Entrepreneurial beekeepers have found a novel way to combat this problem. Namely, to bring their hives and fuzzy yellow inhabitants to the city – where there are no uber pesticides and plenty of flowering trees (400’000 in Berlin).
When it comes to honey harvest time, the honey is all collected and sold back in the countryside, usually in bottles that do nothing to highlight the city origins of this pseudo country product!
That is why Berliner Honig is such a find! When Annette and Jemi realized they couldn’t buy honey from Berlin – they left their day jobs and decided to give the bees and their aging bee keepers (average age of 75!) a helping hand.
On Saturday a handful of Berliner bloggers (Karinka, KeksTester,Peggy of Multikulinaria, Misterrios) and myself were, able to sample fresh, unfiltered, un-pasteurized, Berlin honey. There were two harvests, a pale spring one and amber colored summer one.
I had a Eureka moment when I realized that fresh honey doesn’t smell of “honey” – the generic smell that has been indoctrinated in our minds through the concerted efforts of the big honey producers. Fresh honey smells of…flowers. And the fresher the product, the more potent the bouquet. You can see why Winnie the Poo was constantly getting into sticky situations the get the real thing – because the supermarket stuff just won’t do!
City harvested honey may sound like just another fad. But think about it. Would you buy wine in a carton that came in two flavors – red and white? That had no individual aroma – no terroir? I don’t even use that stuff to cook with! Same with chocolate, we were all happily chomping away on 70% dark chocolate and then we discovered single estate chocolate and realized that chocolate could be floral, or have hints of leather (not as bad as it sounds – think wine).
The deli I worked at in London sells a local honey from beehives in Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park called – Regent’s Park Honey. From as early as April customers would start putting their name down on the waiting list. I would have to field phone calls all day long – “No, it’s not in yet. Yes, we have your name down. Yes, we will call you as soon as it comes in.” I think we Berliners (I count myself among you now) can take a page out of Londoners book and become more discerning in our honey choices!
I don’t think we need Tom Cruise to help us out of the corner we have backed ourselves into. Instead, you can seek out and buy Berliner Honig.
There is even more you can do. If you have a balcony or even better – a garden, you can become a host family for baby bees.
There is no diaper changing involved, I promise! All you have to do, is make sure that your baby bees always have some fresh water. They will do the rest, they will forage and make honey. They will buzz around your flowers, festooning them like live Christmas baubles.
Maybe you are thinking, “I do love honey and I want to make sure that Einstein’s prophecy does not become reality but I don’t want to be stung or have to swat away bees from my breakfast table.”
The thing is – I think a lot of people mistake wasps for bees. Wasps don’t make honey, given the choice of ham or jam – they will always pick the former. They are a pest and a nuisance.
Bees have places to be, flowers to pollinate and Queen bees to please! They don’t have time, in their short industrious lives to hang around your lunch. Don’t take my word for it. Read “The Secret Lives of Bees” Or contact Berliner Honig to view real honeybees in action. You will be mesmerized; I dare you not to get hooked! Go on… Try it!