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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Miel de Romarin, La Maison des Abeilles, Villechauve, France

On vacation in France in the Loire region we can across a large roadside sign promoting visiting "La Maison des Abeilles" (the house of the bees). I couldn't resist. La Maison des Abeilles is actually a series of small buildings-including a cluster of hive shaped ones, nestled next to the road. At the main entrance, which is also the entrance to the small, but well stocked, store containing various honeys and honey products, you can buy a ticket for a tour. The store, the ticketing and the tour are run by the owner and apiarist himself. He is a man with a mission to educate and promote bees and honey.

The cluster of hive shaped buildings is where the tour happens. From posters and artifacts you learn about the history of harvesting honey and the complicated (and fascinating) life of bees. In another section, the apiarist demonstrates how honey is harvested by taking a comb of honey and spinning it down (questions and tasting are encouraged). In the final section the center of the room is taken up with a glassed-in hive that has access to the outside. You can enter the hive via a door. You can see the honey bees coming and going and the apiarist enters to show you how he handles bees. He points out pollen on the legs of the bees, and also the difference between the queen and the others. All together it takes about an hour and a half and worth every minute.

If you'd like more information about La Maison des Abeilles:

In the store after I bought a jar of rosemary honey (miel de romarin). It has been sitting in my pantry for a while so it is now cloudy and crystalized, but still a mellow yellow with a slight froth at the top. It isn't too complicated of a honey. It doesn't have different tones and flavors- mostly a sweet, crisp flavor with an undertone of something aromatically herby. This is the rosemary coming through. It isn't overpowering, more of a subtle background taste. The first and aftertaste are nearly the same.

This is a good, solid honey. Great for tea- especially herbal tea, on bread and in hot cereal. I think it might be good for baking as well.

In addition to rosemary honey, La Maison des Abeilles had other varieties, all locally produced and harvested by the apiarist (whose name I wish I had now!).