Jews who will be dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year in the weeks to come might consider the local option – Wisconsin honey has its own taste and challenges of production.
One of the main challenges of honey production is crucial – keeping the bees alive. Healthy bees are essential for great honey but diseases spread by mites make this difficult, according to Wisconsin beekeepers. They are currently trying to find an organic solution, said Chris Werner from Indian Summer Honey Farm.
Wisconsin beekeepers are also faced with the challenge of keeping their bees alive during the cold, winter season. For Indian Summer Honey Farm in Germantown and Henry’s Honey Farm in Redgranite, bees are transported to Florida and California during the winter months, respectively. Migrating allows their bees to be productive during the winter season.
Mad Urban Bees in Madison does not transport its bees south for the winter. “The main challenge is getting them through November and December,” admitted Nathan Clarke of Mad Urban Bees.
Despite the brutal winter, beekeepers agree that Wisconsin is an ideal place to produce honey. With the variety of flowers and trees here, Wisconsin honey is unique.
Wisconsin’s native dandelions, lilacs and buckthorn are all used in honey to create a terrific, distinct flavor. “It’s nothing we do, it’s a wonderful location,” Werner said. “Wisconsin honey is a unique blend that the bees do themselves,” added John Piechowski from Henry’s Honey Farm. “I often say to myself ‘Thank you bees, you’ve done a good job.’”
Tasting the honey is the best part of beekeeping, Clarke said. Beekeeping in an urban area allows for numerous varieties of honey since there is more biodiversity and bees have a variety of nectar and pollen to choose from. To capture the flavors of all the flowers that are in bloom, Mad Urban Bees extracts their honey every three to four weeks.
You can have a sweet new year by enjoying a range of honey flavors. Indian Summer Honey Farm offers black locust, basswood and sweet clover honey. These major flavors are then blended with a variety of blossoms. One of their most popular combinations is a basswood and sweet clover blend. A clover blend is also most popular for Henry’s Honey Farm.
Like wine, honey is different every year. In general, fall honey is darker and stronger. “As the season changes, the different nectars cause the honey to get darker,” Clarke said.
Mad Urban Bee’s fall flavors often have hints of berry or brown sugar. With all the rain and the cold spring Wisconsin had, Indian Summer Honey Farm will have more sweet clover honey and less basswood and black locust, Werner said.
In addition to a unique taste, local honey may even have health benefits. Local honey helps build immunity to pollens that cause allergies, Piechowski said. In other words, local honey for Rosh Hashanah may even help protect you from ragweed.
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Here are three examples of Wisconsin-made honey.
Indian Summer Honey Farm
Available at Outpost Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market or at their farm location for $3 per pound
Henry’s Honey Farm
Not certified Kosher
Available at Festival Foods and farmers’ markets
Mad Urban Bees
Not certified Kosher
Available at Madison grocery stores and online