A taste of honey for HCE

Circle H Honey continues legacy of county apiaries

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 9/23/19

In the world of beneficial insects, perhaps the most important is the honeybee.

This industrious little worker not only provides a delectable food in honey and a useful product in beeswax, but it …

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A taste of honey for HCE

Circle H Honey continues legacy of county apiaries

Posted

In the world of beneficial insects, perhaps the most important is the honeybee.

This industrious little worker not only provides a delectable food in honey and a useful product in beeswax, but it is the insects’ contribution to pollinating plants that makes them so valuable to maintaining a variety of food sources for humans. Honeybees, though, are under stress from numerous environmental attacks.

“If we don’t do something to help the bees, we won’t have bees and we will have to change the way we eat,” said Melanie Ogle, during a presentation about beekeeping and using honey at the Edgar County Home Community Education meeting Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Ogle made the presentation on behalf of her daughter Betsy Higginbotham, who with her husband, Jacob, have approximately 30 hives in eight locations around Edgar County. The Higginbotham apiary operates as Circle H Honey, with honey available locally for sale.

One of the many stresses honeybees face in Edgar County is the loss of food sources as pastures and fencerows disappear to monoculture farming. As an example, the Higginbothams have five beehives on the farm Mary Lou Wright owns near the Edgar County Airport. Ogle said that same property supported 50 hives for beekeeper Gene Killion during the 1950s and 1960s.

Other stressors for honeybees include waxwing moths and varroa mites invading the hives and diseases such as American foulbrood.

Ogle dispelled any notion that producing honey is an easy job of getting a hive and waiting until late summer to collect the honey. She said her daughter and son-in-law check each hive weekly to address any health issues in a timely manner.

Honey is categorized from light to dark with the color determined by the nectar collected by the bees. Ogle said many beekeepers blend all of the honey collected from different hives into a single batch, but Circle H bottles honey by the hive. She expressed some surprise at the variation in color that can occur in a small area like Edgar County.

According to Ogle, the honey from Wright’s farm is light in color and Circle H bottles it as Willow Creek Honey. The hives at the Higginbotham’s home produce an amber color and Circle H calls it Grandview Honey.

Ogle had a couple of caveats about using honey. It is not safe to feed honey to children under the age of one and honey is not recommended for diabetics or others on a sugar-restricted diet. A tablespoon of honey has two more grams of carbohydrates and 19 more calories than a tablespoon of sugar. The advantage to cooking with honey is it tastes sweeter so it is possible to use less in a recipe. It also adds minerals and flavor not available with sugar.

Refreshments at the meeting were honey apple salad and a honey coffee cake made with whole-wheat flour. Some of the HCE board members tackled making the honey recipes for the meeting.

Dona Hoult made one of the coffee cakes. She found some adjustments necessary to allow for honey’s different properties over sugar such as decreasing the baking temperature and adding a little more water.

According to Hoult, cooking with honey is neither more difficult nor easier than using sugar. There are some things she prefers to make with honey.

“I’ve made cookies before and I think they stay softer,” said Hoult. “Anybody that is diabetic does have to watch it.”

Carol Halloran, Kate Morecraft and Paula Coombes shared in the duties of preparing the apple salad. Honey is part of the sauce that coats the ingredients.

They agreed using honey is not anymore difficult than preparing food with sugar. Halloran liked the way the honey incorporated with the sour cream and other ingredients to make a more liquid and creamier sauce. She said in that sense it was easier to use than trying to get sugar to dissolve into the liquids.

Both Coombes and Morecraft admitted some reluctance to using honey in the past but that reticence is gone.

“I wasn’t sure how it would taste,” said Coombes.

Morecraft agreed, adding the taste was fine and she is interested in trying other honey recipes.

“I would use it more,” said Morecraft.