Urban Beekeeping with Gardener’s Glory
When I was first asked to write a story about bees, I thought they said beers. Me being an avid beer drinker, naturally I jumped at the chance. After a short chuckle I was promptly corrected to bees, and more specifically urban beekeeping. Normally I would’ve been disappointed that a frosty brew had slipped through my fingers, but as luck would have it, I also happen to love honey. Fast forward some two weeks later and I am sitting outside a large property in Constantia waiting for urban beekeepers, Richard and Marjolijn to arrive.
Richard and Marjolijn are the owners of Gardener’s Glory, an urban beekeeping initiative that harvests honey the way it should be done – naturally. The idea is simple, you offer your garden and they come and install and maintain beehives. You get ten percent of every harvest and you have the first option to buy the honey. What’s cool about this is that every honey tastes and looks different due to the variety of flowers in the area. They currently have eight sites at gardens in and around Cape Town. Today we’re in one that belongs to a lovely lady named Christine.
Christine’s had the bee hives for about four years and she’s a firm believer in the concept. She’s even grows plants like zinnias, sunflowers, basil and lavender specifically to feed the bees. As Richard fired up the smoker he explained that the smoke triggers the bees to eat honey, which makes them more docile. It’s still necessary to wear a bee suit and shoes though… and like an idiot, I forgot to wear closed shoes. So with me out of the hunting party, my trusty cameraman went off to catch the action, while I enjoyed some coffee and cake on the stoep with Christine and found out a bit more about the process.
The extraction process is done with great care. Each hive has ten frames that lie vertically above the brood box. Richard and Marjolijn work as gently as possible when removing the frames. They give each frame a gentle tap to remove the bees and then place the frames into a container. The whole process is done with respect and with the best interest of the bees at heart. The funny thing is that this is way beekeeping should be done. Sadly though, this is not the case in today’s modern world. I could shock you with some of the stories Richard told me about commercial beekeeping, but that’s a tale for another time. Another factor to consider in the story of urban beekeeping, is just how important these little workers are to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They are in fact so critical, they are often termed guardians of the food chain. Plants of all types, incuding fruit and vegetables that we, as well as wildlife consume, are pollinated by bees. Remove the ability for these plants to be pollinated and we lose an extremely valuable step in the eco-chain. While you might tempted to kill a bee to avoid a sting, think twice about the impact this could have.
The beauty about Gardener’s Glory is that you know exactly where your honey is coming from. Each jar is single origin honey that can be traced back to the garden it came from. It’s the same principal as knowing where your meat or eggs come from. Often the honey you buy in stores (even reputable stores) is a blend of many different honeys. What’s even more concerning is that the cheap stuff, available from most retailers, is imported, irradiated and full of antibiotics. Some of it is not even real honey – it’s honey diluted with high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners.
China is one of the main culprits of this. They even go so far as to ultra-filter honey to remove all the pollen. Why do this? Because pollen is the only way to pinpoint a honey’s country of origin. This means they can dump laundered honey into other countries without it being traced back to them.
Gardener’s Glory doesn’t believe in any of these practices. Richard and Marjolijn’s goal is to provide 100% pure natural honey straight from the comb. They don’t filter their honey, they only lightly strain it to remove wax particles. The wax in honey comes from the caps that bees place over the full comb to protect the honey. As Richard gently scraped the caps off, he explained that it takes ten parts of honey to make one part of wax. After wax is collected it’s actually reused to line the frames. The bees then reuse it instead of remaking new wax. It’s a clever solution that means the bees use less honey, which means there’s more to harvest.
Once the caps are removed, the frames are placed into a centrifuge and the honey is spun out. The honey from Christine’s garden was a dark, slightly cloudy amber colour and tasted floral with woody notes. Out of the ten frames the harvest yielded almost five litres of absolutely delicious raw honey.
As I mentioned earlier the honey will be lightly strained then packaged and sold. The thing with this raw honey is that it’s not filtered to be more visually appealing. It’s not heated to stop it crystallizing. It’s not pasteurized which destroys delicate flavours created by yeast and enzymes. It’s not processed in any way that detracts from the hard work that the bees have put into it, and do you know why? Because that’s the way honey is meant to be.
Follow Gardener’s Glory on social media below to find out more about what they do and where you can purchase there products. Even better, get in touch if you would like to be a part of the growing community of bee-friendly gardens.
Delicious produce is grown in healthy, living soil. The #Harvesttotable series is brought to you by Reliance Compost.