You might have noticed that we now carry our own Fresh City honey on our market. The raw honey is the product of a beautiful partnership between our farmers at Downsview Park, and Mystic Sister Apiaries. Sustainable urban beekeeper and founder of Mystic Sister Apiaries Saidy Corneglio has been sharing the journey of the honeybees and detailing their everyday at the farm. Read on for an update about the bees at the farm!
Over the past 4 months our fuzzy, buzzy friends, the Honeybees, have been dutifully collecting nectar and pollen from millions of flowers on Fresh City Farm’s 2-acre plot and beyond. Honeybees carry the nectar and pollen back to the hive for storage by using a specialized stomach for nectar and “pollen baskets” on their legs.
The nectar gets stored in honeycomb cells made of beeswax. Here, the bees fan the nectar until it thickens to about 17% moisture content before they cap the comb with more beeswax for indefinite storage. This thickened nectar is honey!
Once September rolls around, it signals the beginning of the end of beekeeping season here in Ontario, and that means the time for Harvest has arrived. Depending on the age, size, location of the hive and weather conditions over the growing season, a beehive in Ontario can produce anywhere from 30 to100 pounds of surplus honey. Before we harvest honey from a beehive, we first check to make sure the honey we want to harvest is capped. When we find a box full of capped honey, we can prepare to remove it from the hive.
A day before we harvest the honey, we place a “bee escape” under the box we are going to remove. This is essentially a maze that allows the bees to leave the honey box safely, but not come back up into it. This makes removing the box easier the next day because it is free from bees!
Once the honey box has been removed, we prepare the honey frames for extraction. In order for the honey to be able to flow freely from the cells it is stored in, we must gently remove the wax cappings with a specialized uncapping tool or knife. After the wax cappings are removed, we place the honey frames into an extractor – this spins the frames rapidly allowing centrifugal force to fling the honey out of the cells and into the stainless steel collecting chamber.
After being double-filtered to remove any remaining wax, the resulting pure raw honey is bottled.
Two jars of honey from two different hives. Notice the colour difference.
There are hundreds of different types of honey available in North America, each featuring a unique flavour and colour depending on the blossoms visited by the honeybees. Single varietal honeys like ‘Clover’ or ‘Buckwheat’, are the result of honeybees gathering nectar from the same type of flower exclusively. While some people may prefer the flavour of these single varietals, this is not ideal for the bees nutritionally. Bees, like us, have a wide array of nutritional requirements that can only be met by foraging on a diverse collection of flora.
The honey produced on Fresh City Farms is the result of the bees foraging across the diverse farm and surrounding area - this type of honey is often called “wildflower honey”. Our honey is harvested in very small batches; one hive at a time. Each jar of honey is a time capsule of diverse colour, texture and flavour that springs from the unique ‘terroir’ of the hive, location, and season.
Local raw honey is not only delicious but also has medicinal properties. Consuming local raw honey has been shown to:
- reduce the duration of colds and flus
- alleviate symptoms associated with seasonal allergies
- and, due to its antiseptic qualities, it is an effective wound healer.
Why not treat yourself to a jar of local honey today?
Photos courtesy of Saidy Corneglio of Mystic Sister Apiaries