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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Raw Jamaica Plain honey, The Benevolent Bee, Jamaica Plain, MA

I was treated to some very local honey recently. I want to stress how local it was- just across the street from where I work in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood of Boston, MA. I was surprised to find apiarists tending bees and collecting honey in what is decidedly an urban setting, with the 39 MBTA Bus coming by every 15 minutes and the Heath Street T station a short walk away. It just goes to show that if you have a mind to, you can be a beekeeper just about anywhere.

Stephanie and Emile's backyard hives
Stephanie and Emile are the urban apiarists of my Jamaica Plain honey. They (and their growing family) live in a two family walk-up surrounded by a small yard. In the yard are three hives, one of which they built themselves. Work friends and I dropped by one lunch break on a warm November afternoon to get a tour.

Stephanie showed us around, explained what we were seeing, and talked with us about her passion for bees and honey. In addition to collecting honey from their bees they also collect for an apiarist in the Metro-West region whose business is focused more on his pollination service. Their honey is raw, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. They filter only minimally to maximize retaining all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals in their honey. They harvest twice a year, in summer and in fall, and the honey is dramatically different (as you can imagine) depending on the season because the floral sources are so different.
Stephanie with one of her backyard hives

However, it is hard to say what the floral sources actually are. Jamaica Plain is home to a large portion of the Emerald Necklace, a series of connecting parks designed and built by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 19th century. If fact, Jamaica Pond, part of the Emerald Necklace, is a stone's throw away from Stephanie and Emile house. It is a kettle pond- which, according to wiki is a "shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining flood waters." It has walking paths, wooden benches looking out over the pond, geese in fall and spring, and a variety of mature trees. Is whatever is growing around Jamaica Pond the source of the honey? Could be, but bees have a range of a few miles and within the catchment area of Stephanie and Emile's bees there are other parks that may tempt them to go farther afield: Olmsted Park, Franklin Park and the Arnold Arboretum, to name the larger ones. Probably safest to say that their honey is "Jamaica Plain whatever" honey.

A Sampling of Benevolent Bee Products
Apart from honey Stephanie and Emile also manufacture (by hand) beeswax candles, balms, salves and soaps, and offer courses for, and assistance to, new beekeepers. They sell their honey and other products under "The Benevolent Bee" label (they also do all of their own labels and packaging!). They have a lovely website with lots of information and photos. You can buy directly from their website, through Etsy, and/or at local farmers' markets and craft venues.

The Benevolent Bee Honey, Jamaica Plain, MA
The honey I have was harvested in  August 2013. It is a mellow yellow, more of a lemony yellow than sunflower yellow, slightly cloudy (indicative of all the particulate matter that hasn't been filtered out- a good sign of minimally processed honey) honey of medium to thin consistency. It is a very smooth honey that isn't too sweet. It has a delicate herby (eucalyptus?) flavor with citrus undertones that ends with a subtle fresh, almost minty after taste. It has the perfect consistency for drizzling on thick plain yoghurt or on hot buttered toast.

A big thank you to Stephanie for inviting us into her home and sharing her passion and expertise of all things bees and honey!

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