As we gathered the honey from our hives in the summer, we were mindful of the remarkable effort that goes into every precious golden drop.
The hard work of the bees begins long before harvest and at Daylesford we are committed to supporting our favourite pollinators throughout the year.
During springtime, our bees get their fill from blossom, wildflowers, trees and other crops in our Market Garden. This year, we had a gloriously sunny spring so we were blessed with a plentiful harvest in May. Other bee farmers usually enjoy a bumper crop in spring because of the countryside’s abundant oil seed rape; however rape is not compatible with our organic system, so we patiently wait for our main harvest a little later in the year.
Throughout summer, the fields of Daylesford are abundant in red clover, white clover and sainfoin – which is particularly beneficial for bees. We have intentionally left four acres of sainfoin to flower this year for the various bee species supported by our farmland. We also have plenty of hedgerows with brambles, willow herb and other late-flowering wild plants that provide a good nectar source deep into the season.
The variety of crops affects the resulting honey because the natural sugars found in the nectar of various plants set at different rates. For example, ivy sets hard very quickly, whereas bramble honey and borage honey seem to stay runny for longer.
Extracting the honey involves uncapping the wax from the frames with a hot knife, aligning the frames in a giant centrifuge where they are spun, and then tapping off the running honey for bottling. In order to keep the beneficial properties intact, we do not pasteurise our honey: cold-filtered, unprocessed raw honey contains residues of propolis, a natural antiseptic, and other trace elements that make honey nutritionally preferable to refined sugar.
And of course, the flavour is unparalleled. For the ultimate in raw honey, we leave it in the comb and spoon it direct onto fresh bread – delicious!
Our last harvest in July gave us plenty of heavy comb bursting with ripe honey. Now we are busy cutting and jarring in time to exhibit at the Honey Show at the Daylesford Harvest Festival this coming Saturday.