Archive for food discovery

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.


Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts

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Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the hives, I store the frames separated by hive location and date.  Once I remove enough full frames, I start extracting the honey into buckets and jars, all the while keeping the batches as separate as possible.

Flowering plants blossom at different times throughout the year, tempting bees and other pollinators with nectar of different characteristics (color, smell, taste, viscosity).  Those floral nectar differences are reflected in the resulting honey; as flowers change the honey changes. In the past couple of years the honey has been dark in the early spring (autumn olive and tulip poplar in April/May),  then became lighter in color as the bees moved  to wild berries and brambles (May/June),  and lighter yet as they finish with basswood, linden, and clover in June/early July.   2017 has been different – for the first time in several years black locust has bloomed in glorious quantity.

Black locust honey is among the sweetest of honeys and very light in color.  I won’t say that I sell black locust honey, because so many other things blossom at the same time and the bees gather whatever they can. What I can say is that the early 2017 honey is lighter and sweeter for which I credit black locust.  Early autumn olive did not make it into honey frames, while tulip poplar was stretched out over several weeks.  Linden, basswood, berries, and clover will be in later honey batches.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement.  Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)


Batch “A”
Black locust, tulip poplar, early wildflowers.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.6%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, Washington, near Goat Hill Farm, harvested June 24.

Batch “B”
High black locust content, with tulip poplar and wildflowers.  Thicker with beeswax scent.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Tiger Valley Rd (June 24) and Jericho Rd (June 8).

Batch “C”
Predominately black locust; very sweet with butterscotch and vanilla tastes.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.2%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, June 24 of selected frames.

Batch “D”
Some autumn olive, with black locust and some tulip polar; creamy with caramel.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.5%
Origin: Jericho Rd, Huntly, June 8.

Batch “E”
Color: Light Amber
Although I manage over 25 colonies, not all colonies produce equally.  Jericho #2 was one of my top 3 producers contributing over 80 pounds.
Moisture Content: 17.2%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, June 24

Batch “F”
One of the first batches harvested from the rock star Jericho #2.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.9%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, May 27

Batch “G”
This Laughing Duck home colony was a surprise and promises good production in the future!  A captured swarm, such colonies get a late start and a harvest is not expected.  The girls of LD #L4 didn’t get the memo and contributed a full harvest of about 35 pounds.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Harris Hollow Rd, Colony #LL4 August 1

Batch “H”
This was the last batch of the second extraction run, each batch has 9 frames and these were the leftover frames at the end of the day!  Its like a capping tank batch, but more cohesive as I tried to identify frames of a like color.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Jericho, Tiger Valley, and Harris Hollow areas, August 7.

Batch “I”
This is another batch of 21.9 pounds from Jericho #2.  The nectar was collected over 4 weeks with contributions from many different plants including tulip poplar, basswood, and clover.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Colony Jericho #2 Honey Super, July 16, Jericho Road, near Flint Hill

Batch “J”
This is was the last batch of the year, taken from colonies at our home. The light color reflects clover with basswood (American linden), the basswood providing a fruity, leitchi-like aroma.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “K”
Capping tank batches represent a mix of all the individual colonies and flowers collected during June and early July. The color is a little darker with pollen from many different sources.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: July capping tank
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “L”
Tiger Valley Colony #1 was a captured swarm that wasn’t expected to produce a harvest. My eye will be on this colony to propagation the strong work they did in a short time. I expect the colony found a stand of basswood (American linden) and harvest a large amount of honey is a short time.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #1, July 8.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “M”
Tiger Valley #4 was an established colony which swarmed at an inopportune moment. The harvest took a long time building, as a result having a darker color with a wide variety of pollen.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #4, July 8.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

Batch “N”
The final batch from the rock-star colony #2 at Jericho Road. The timing and very light color suggest a strong clover component with basswood (American linden).
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Jericho Road Colony #2, July 16.
Moisture Content: 17.6%

Batch “O”
Batches are built of up to 9 frames of honey taken from a colony. In the case of this batch from my home beeyard, I had several isolated frames and not enough to build a batch from one or two colonies. Given the frames on hand, I selected those of lighter color to make up this batch. Its companion batch of darker frames will make up Batch P. This batch has a higher clover and basswood component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected light frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “P”
This is the companion to Batch O. This batch has a higher tulip poplar and bramble component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected dark frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.3%

Batch “Q”
This was the last batch of the year, taken on August 26.  Very light and sweet. White clover with thistle and basswood.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, various colonies.
Moisture Content: 18.6%

Batch “R”
This is a blend of the August batches as taking from the capping tank.
Color: Amber
Origin: Harris Hollow, Jericho Road, and Tiger Valley beeyards.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)

Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet


On Roots

I do not know why it took me all those years to finally cook an entire Reunionese meal for friends.

Maybe it was because I did not think anybody would be interested. I am relieved to say that was not at all the case. In fact, I was asked to please make more of them in the future. I don’t know why I am surprised. Reunion food IS good.

Maybe it was because I felt I would have to get all those exotic ingredients , and that felt wrong. As it turns out, a lot of things grow or can grow in Virginia, but yes, I had to get some things grown far away – It was special, I got over the reluctance.

Maybe it was because I was not sure I could cook it right.  Get the right cut of meat. Or be able to use a specific technique successfully. In fact, by carefully selecting the menu, one can make a fairly authentic Reunionese meal in Virginia.

Or maybe it’s just that as one gets older, one goes back to one roots.


Read more

Smoking Bacon

Bacon’s my friend (especially the kind that comes from a pastured pig).

A few weeks ago I read Brett Laidlaw’s post on Trout Caviar about smoking bacon. He wrote  it just about 2 years ago, but I only recently read it.

I knew we had to try it.

We did.


It just so happened that I had two pork sides in the freezer Read more

Fragile Promises

Cherry blossoms in early April are incredibly lovely, aren’t they? and incredibly fragile. They open their snowy petals for pollinators to do their jobs when the chance of freeze or frost is still real and so one wonders: is this too early? will a frost come and wipe out this year’s crop? or will they survive and turn into Bing? Royal Ann? Somerset? Lapins? Viscount? Will it be sorrow and frustration or will it be joy and good picking?


On April 4, Garrick Giebel and Ann Grenade opened their hilltop cherry orchard – aptly named “Cherries-on-Top” – in Flint Hill, VA for Rappahannock’s own little cherry blossom festival as well as for people to meet them, the new orchard owners.

You see, Garrick and Ann did not mean to operate a cherry orchard. The property went to the market in 2007, following the accidental death of its prior owner. The pair bought in 2008 for its incomparable views. It came with 800 cherry trees. Read more

Fast Food, Slow Food


My baker was really starting to slack.

He was supposed to bake for a New Year’s eve party. I would make pate, he would make bread, our hostess would “ouh” and “ah”. A 911 call came in. As a member of a local rescue squad, he responded. I guess that’s as good an excuse as one can get… That night, the hostess got Cardamom Custard Tartelettes, Pear & Quince Jam Tartelettes and a bottle of homemade peach liqueur. She still “ouh”-ed et “ah”-ed and promptly whisked the bottle away whispering, “if you don’t mind, I won’t serve that tonight”. I don’t mind.

So, my baker would bake for New Year’s Day and I would serve the Pate that day. Another 911 calls came in on New Year’s day morning, and so I served Hoppin’ John and Garlicky Vinegared Mustard Greens instead.

Eventually, a batch of country baguettes was baked the day after New Year’s day. By then, the Venison and Pork Terrine (made of all local ingredients, except for the Juniper berries) had nicely mellowed. The mache and lettuce, although battered by several days of cold temperatures (below 15 F/ -9C), are still yielding enough for a few big bowls of salad.

So this is lunch for the next few days. Grab & sit. No pan to wash. Fast food at its best.

Verdict: While the baguettes taste wonderful, the Terrine could have been salted more. It’s a good thing I had a jar of Spicy Plum Chutney from the Virginia Chutney Company on hand: the chutney, locally made in Washington, VA, really complemented the terrine very well, and helped to forget that I had under salted it. Hey, I am still developing the recipe. I don’t mind making more (I will) to perfect the recipe – as long as there is baguette to try it with. Nobody minds being guinea pigs for terrines & pates in the house. Mustard greens doesn’t  quite get the same welcome. I don’t understand…

Note for the Locavore Log: mache & lettuce greens for the salad, pork & venison used for the pateas well as some of the pickles immedatiately local; flour for the bread… I wish!