All For Honey


There is a type of farming and harvesting many of us are not familiar with, and we seldom hear from the practitioners, though they are subject to the same weather constraints as others. It is apiculture or beekeeping. Spring frosts, for example, can damage the fruit-farmer's crop. Likewise, it restricts the honey output because the blossoms are not there or are damaged. We will hear something about this when the County Dublin Beekeepers' Association, for example, hold their honey show and craft fair on November 14th. A note from Graham Hall says that this season was reasonable for honey around Dublin, with the warm weather in mid-May giving an excellent hawthorn honey flow. The bad June and July meant that clover are blackberry was poor, but the heather in August was reasonably helpful. Sean Cronin of Rathgar's Gourmet Shop, who has hives up beyond Rathfarnham, had a lovely early honey with a flavour which he attributes to the chestnut flowers.

On this subject of honey, you are either of the clan which snorts that it is just sugar with a flavour, or a reasonable person who recognises its great contribution to cooking and the food we eat, and which derives pleasure from the many flavours and textures and consistencies of having a varied number of sources to draw on. Firstly, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to beat good Irish heather honey. You have to ask for it by that designation. Then, if friends know that you are a honey fan, they will bring you jars from England, Scotland, half a dozen spots around the Mediterranean and even farther afield.

Have you tried green salad with olive oil and added honey and maybe pine nuts. Baked ham isn't baked ham if you don't drive cloves into the flesh and cover the lot with honey before putting it in the oven. And if you are grilling duck, for example, you should score the breast with a sharp knife and apply honey. To read the explanatory sheet given out by one firm in the south-west of France (Les Butineuses Catalanes) is to be transported to the rocky sun-drenched hills, where from February, mark you, rosemary and thyme are already being pillaged by the bees, to the 5,000 to 6,000 giants of mountains where the plants are classified by the producer as "mainly medicinal" and are harvested in August/September. The honey lives up to the colourful writing. Anyway, November 14th, Christ Church Hall, Rathgar, from 25 p.m.; entry £1 goes to Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross.