Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova

Tonight at sundown, the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah (also called the Jewish New Year) begins. All over the world, Jewish people will celebrate by dipping apples in honey and by eating lots of foods sweetened with honey. No Rosh Hashanah feast is complete without a honey cake for dessert. I'm famous for being picky when it comes to traditional Jewish fare, but I always look forward to celebrating the Jewish New Year with my family because honey is by far one of my favorite foods. Honey is also one of the most abundant of our many delicacies here in the tropics. I guess the furry little honey bees like our warm weather. They must, because down here, they make honey all year round.

There are several honey producers all over the state of Florida. In fact, Tupelo honey, which most people agree is the world's best tasting honey (but really how can you even decide something like that?), comes from Northern Florida. It's not 100 mile local, but at least it's in-state. Also, I am very fond of it. Central Florida, citrus growing territory, also has several honey producers. Up there, bees make honey from the orange blossoms and it has a distinctly light, floral taste which makes it one of the most popular commercial varieties. Orange blossom honey from Florida is shipped all over the world. I don't prefer it.

Down here in South Florida, from Palm Beach to the Keys, we enjoy many unique varieties of honey due to the diversity of plants which thrive in our area. One notable variety is Sea Grape honey. Lime Honey, made by bees who frequent lime groves, is also delicious, but beware of producers who might add flavored oils to enhance the flavor. I don't know why they do that because plain lime honey is wonderful on its own. My favorite local honeys are Saw Palmetto Honey and (get ready for it) Avocado Honey. I like these two because I prefer a darker, richer honey. The more it looks like molasses, the more I'll want to lick it out of the jar with a long handled spoon. I tend to like the more complex, smokier flavors with faint suggestions of bitterness and these two fit that description. Some people though, may be turned off by these flavors and would prefer something gentler like Jamaican Dogwood and Gallberry which are also very good. I know because I've sampled them all.

There are so many local bee-keepers who sell their wares. Some produce honey on a large scale and some are much smaller or even private affairs. In the past few months I've sampled as many different local honeys as I could find and there are still many more to go (but honey sampling is fun so I have no intention to stop).

Here are some of my favorites:

Bee Natural Honey from Homestead.

Bees N the Keys from Key Largo (with hives up and down the island chain). These guys might be my favorite, but it's hard to really pick. I tried all of their varieties at the Fairchild Food & Garden festival last Spring and they were very patient with me wanting to eat everything in sight.

BuzznBee from Gainesville. Not 100 Mile, but in-state and very good quality. BuzznBee honey is easy to find at Whole Foods and I found their honeys to be mild, yet floral and flavorful. Some honey is so mild that it has no taste, but BuzznBee had a bright flavor that went nicely with winter strawberries.

Redland Organics from the Redlands. I had to mention Redland Organics. Honestly, their raw honey was my favorite, but it's pretty hard to come by. I got plenty of it in my CSA box two winters ago when I was a member, which is how I know about it. None is available for sale now, but I know they have honey shares available in the winter, though I think it's too late to sign up now. Don't worry. They sell their wonderful goods, compiled from several area farms, at farmer's markets. Come January, I have a feeling they'll have some of their honey for sale along with their other delights. If you can find it, make sure you buy a big jar. You won't regret it.

Here is another site called the Honey Locator, which lists honey producers by state. I think that most of the companies they list are larger, more commercial operations, though the site could still prove useful.

No matter where you get your honey and no matter if you're Jewish or not, I wish you the sweetest, healthiest, happiest New Year.



1 comment:

  1. Our local Redland Organics farm honey is pretty much always available through our CSA's honey shares, at the farmers market, and during the offseason through our Summer Orders program. You need to be on our mailing list to receive the emails with the offers, since in the summertime we only take prepaid, preorders for whatever is ripening that week. Go to beeheavenfarm.com and sign up to receive our emails. You can't expect to just show up at the farm any old time, since we're not normally open to the public.

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