Abuzz about urban honey October is harvest time in San Francisco neighborhoods
05/10/02 - Laramie Trevino - http://www.sfgate.com/
Twin Peaks resident Risa Kolm gave in to nostalgia when buying a bottle of honey at the corner market. "I'll go with Noe Valley - I used to live there - it's my old neighborhood."
Maybe next time she'll pick Pacific Heights because a colleague lives there, or Golden Gate Park because the destination is popular, or Castro Street for its color. The names belong to San Francisco sites and districts, but local beekeepers have borrowed them to label the honey they cultivate from hives in those neighborhoods.
So picking a locally made honey isn't just about flavor, color and texture - it can be as simple as geography.
Residents and visitors may not realize that San Francisco is a honey- lover's paradise. Other labels produced by members of the regional beekeeper association include: Lake Merced, Richmond, Sunset, Twin Peaks, Glen Park, Cole Valley, Cow Hollow, Dolores Park, Lone Mountain, McLaren Park, Mountain Lake Park and Presidio Heights.
From October into early November, beekeepers are putting a wrap on the honey crop. Once the weather turns cold and wet, the bees will stop producing high yields and will fall back on their reserves. But honey lovers need not worry about being without local honey during the winter months.
"Our weather is so good all year long, there's always something in bloom," says Joe Giuliani, a beekeeper and the vice president of the San Francisco Beekeepers Association. He figures that about a half dozen members produce honey to sell. No permits are needed for keeping hives in San Francisco, but city code places a limit of two hives per site. For their own protection, beekeepers carry liability insurance.
San Francisco beekeepers credit the many imported plants and trees that provide continuing bloom for an extended honey season. The reverse can be true in the countryside, where, after an early bloom in spring, it's slim pickings until a second crop is ready in the fall.
Freddy Menge of Menge Brothers Apiaries in Aptos/La Selva Beach has found that his operation has a shorter season than that of San Francisco beekeepers. He attributes the decline to the absence of wildflowers and other nectar sources.
"The summer is dormant, it tapers down to almost nothing," he says. In September, when beach flowers such as native buckwheat and mock heather start flowering, there is stirring amid the troops.
"Now our bees are starting to work again," Menge says.
And the honey that bees make in each area has a taste different from that of another - although "multiflora" is the predominant type of honey produced in San Francisco.
"Each neighborhood has a different microclimate," says Giuliani. The taste can vary from one area to another, from one day to the next and from season to season. And although golden is the universal color of city honey, Giuliani finds the shades from various districts range from "very light to gorgeous golden."
"Bees gather the tastes that are a product of that particular neighborhood at that time of the season," says Robert MacKimmie, president of the beekeepers association. "Spring honey is very floral, and fall honeys are spicy and full flavored because of plants like fennel, rosemary and lavender."
A typical hive is a cedar or pine box (hollow logs are used in Central and South America) that has a bottom board, a cover, brood chambers, a queen excluder (that allows bees to pass through, but not the queen) and supers, where the honey is gathered.
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