Guest post by Sharon Lee of FlavourCrusader
Urban honey has grown in popularity worldwide, particularly in Europe. I note that Melbourne city has picked up the trend, but what of Sydney?
“Sydney also has many city beekeepers who’ve been producing rooftop and backyard honey for many years,” said Lyndon Fenlon of Melbourne’s Urban Honey Co.
Meet Richard Foote. His bees reside in suburban Sydney. His method of production is to simply cut the caps then divide the honeycomb into sellable portions. He sells his honey online, and also through Flemington and Penrith markets.
Doug Purdie’s hives reside in community gardens, rooftops and backyards across central Sydney. He honey is branded The Urban Bee Hive and is sold through FoodConnect Sydney and the Sydney Sustainable Markets. He extracts the honey and bottles it.
During an extraction demonstration, I reached out for a small sample of honey. How good could it possibly be?
The honey is much sweeter with a distinct rich flavour. It tastes alive!
But why does urban honey taste different?
Honeybees collect nectar from flowers with their long, tube-like tongues. The nectar is stored in their special honey stomach; inside, it mixes with proteins and enzymes that convert it into honey. Once their stomachs are full, the honeybees then return to the hive and drop the honey into the honeycomb, and repeat the process until it’s full. They then cap the honeycomb with beeswax.
To remove the honey, producers cut the caps then spin the frames in an extractor until the honey flies out onto the walls of a drum, which then drips into a tank. The honey is then cleaned; most debris can be skimmed from the top.
During the cleaning process, producers heat the honey briefly then strain it. Others also pressure-filter their honey to remove pollen; the honey is heated to a higher temperature for this.
Packers buy honey from many producers then blend it together. Sometimes they blend local honey with that sourced from overseas; this is more common with larger-scale production.
The urban honey difference
Purdie, Foote and other small-scale honey producers do not heat or pasteurize their honey, nor do they blend it with honey from other sources. When you buy honey from them, it comes raw from the single source.
It’s fresh too – Purdie’s bottles come dated – mine was packed in August.
The urban honey producers also note that the city landscape is filled with trees of many varieties. As the urban trees bloom and grow different species become predominant; their honey changes in flavour.
Purdie particularly loves his honey in December. If I were you, I’d try it then, too.
Note: raw honey should not be fed to infants under twelve months of age.