A Chance to "Bee Wild" Farm Tour

In this age of sustainable, farm-to-table, locally-sourced, humanely-raised ingredients, consumers want to know where their food is coming from. Local farmer’s markets are wildly popular because shoppers are dealing directly with the growers and makers of the foods they are eating from vegetables to hand-crafted pastas and cured meats. Yet, farmer’s markets are still one step away from the actual terroir of the ingredients they are buying.

Last week, we got one step closer to the true origins of a local product sold at several of Atlanta Community Farmer’s Markets. Thanks to Lia Picard of The Cardigan Kitchen, we traveled to Gainesville, Georgia to visit the home place of Bee Wild Honey. The Wright family has been nurturing honey bees and gathering honey for over 50 years. Unlike, many brand of honey you might find in your neighborhood grocery store, Bee Wild honeys are “raw” meaning that they are not thinned with corn syrups or water and are not pasteurized.

Why would anyone pasteurize honey? Good question! Pasteurized honey lacks beneficial vitamins and enzymes among a host of other natural constituents. Pasteurization removes the pollen, many of the phytonutrients as well as the friendly bacteria that contribute to the otherwise mysterious therapeutic properties of honey. Unfortunately, most golden honey you see at your local grocery is “dead” and far from the health promoting powerhouse of its raw unpasteurized counterparts.

I digress. Third-generation beekeeper, John Wright, lead a tour of one of Bee Wild’s 9 apiaries. An apiary consists of 30-40 beehives which collect nectar and pollen from nearby vegetation and add their unique enzymes to produce the sweet seasonal “varietal” honeys collected by the Bee Wild team. During the Summer months, the bees visit the blooming Sourwood trees commonly found in the North Georgia mountains which produces the delicately flavored honey that is their biggest (and best-selling) crop. In fact, Bee Wild’s Sourwood Honey is a finalist for the 2016 Good Food Awards, recognized for both the honey’s taste and the company’s green practices. Having tasted this amazing elixir drizzled over “Silver Skillet” biscuits, I can attest to its excellence.

A visit to the “Honey House” showed us how the honey is extracted from the wax-sealed frames and siphoned into storage drums. The state-of-the-art equipment makes the process far easier and more sanitary than the 4-frame honey spinner of my youth. Berry Wright, our host’s father and original “bee whisperer,” shared his insights on the art of beekeeping and the greatest threat to America’s honey bees, the Varroa destructor mite.

We were then treated to a honey feast! We sampled the aforementioned biscuits with sourwood honey, field greens with strawberry wildflower honey vinaigrette, chicken drumsticks with a gallberry honey-peach sauce, star thistle honey-glazed pecans and honey-lavendar lemonade. Each dish was made with a different variety of honey to showcase their unique flavor profiles.

We also did a taste testing of several of Bee Wild’s new “wild side” honey infusions that are currently in the development phase. These included a spicy chai, a mild lavender, a fiery ghost pepper and a Mexican chocolate with cocoa nibs. As we said our farewells, we were each gifted a bag of Bee Wild goodies including bottles of their Sourwood and Wildflower honeys. On the ride back to Atlanta, my mind raced with the endless possibilities to use every last drop.

Thanks to John and his team for a lovely afternoon of exploring, learning and sampling. You can find Bee Wild honey products in Atlanta at John’s “Doctah Mojo’s Juice Clinic” in the Irwin Street Market, The Mercantile, Strippaggio and at Community Farmer’s Markets in the metro-area.

While the samples we received were complimentary; writing and photos included herein are original and the opinions are honest and unsolicited.