I stopped my car for a moment in the middle of the nondescript driveway and gazed out at the clearing. If it wasn’t for the “Caution: Honey Bee Yard” warning sign, I might think that I was staring at a field of abandoned white filing cabinets. A faint, but unmistakable, buzz vibrated off the trees.
The invitation to tour Bee Wild’s honey farm had suggested that I “wear light-colored clothing.” I glanced down at my shirt and hoped it was bright enough.
Here, on a five acre parcel of land located on the shore of Lake Lanier, the Wright family has been producing local honey for generations. John Wright has recently taken over the business from his father, who learned the art of beekeeping from his grandfather. The family’s passion for honey has turned into an impressive full-time operation that now encompasses 400 hives over nine apiaries scattered around the Gainesville area.
As John showed us around the hives, he encouraged us to keep a healthy distance. He stressed that bees generally don’t sting unless they feel threatened, but that it was a good idea not to get too close.
A complicated infrastructure was taking place before our eyes. Each boxed hive, or “super,” contained up to 60,000 bees, including a single queen that was laying up to 1,500 eggs a day. Female worker bees whizzed through the air, departing and returning with nectar from the tulip popular and blackberry flowers that were in season.
It is the nectars from different flowers that give honey varieties their unique flavors. Bee Wild’s wooded waterside location makes it ideal for Sourwood honey production, one of the most sought-after gourmet honeys in the world.
We later took a stroll to the “honey house,” were the honey harvesting takes place. Originally a three-walled shack were John’s father would process hives by hand, the structure has undergone substantial renovations to meet production demands.
John showed us the mechanical system that now extracts honey from the frames of the hives. After the wax caps are scrapped off–and later collected for beeswax–the frames are loaded into a cylindrical drum that spins them to extract all the remaining honey. From there, the honey is separated from debris, and pumped into barrels.
The tour concluded with an incredible spread of honey-inspired dishes: lavender lemonade, savory pecans, greens with strawberry wildflower honey vinaigrette, chicken drumsticks with a honey-peach glaze, and homemade biscuits. The food was delicious, and showcased the versatility of honey in the kitchen.
We also taste-tested a few infused honeys that Bee Wild is developing. The infusions ranged anywhere from from spiced chai to cacao nibs to ghost peppers. I am excited to see where they go with these, as the infusions will provide some unique flavors to cook with.
As I drove past the hives on my way home, I couldn’t help but marvel once more at the process that was going on in those white boxes; tiny creatures were converting secretions from flowers into a unique and delicious food source. From the outside it seems like chaos, but to bees it all makes perfect sense. It’s a beautiful thing.
For more information on Bee Wild, and to order some of their amazing honey, bee sure to check out their website: http://beewild.buzz/
Disclaimer: I received some delicious food and honey in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.