Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Growing Good Food: How sweet it is to avoid “honey-laundering”

The recent media buzz on potential new purity standards for honey made me think of Katie.

Katie Aguero was filling in for her dad one recent weekend at Denver Urban Homesteading year-round indoor farmers market, representing products from Lee’s Bees located northeast of Brighton.

“Raw unfiltered honey has the best health benefits,” she said, standing behind a table crowded with containers of honey in an array of sizes, shapes and hues. “You don’t need to pasteurize honey because no bacteria can live in it. A fine filter process takes out the pollen and then it no longer gives you the full health benefits. Many honey sellers buy honey from other states, even other countries, and blend it.”

Foreign sourcing and blending has become commonplace in recent years, she said, noting that even natural small-label brands sold at Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage are guilty of it.

Indeed, in news reports that came out over the weekend, the honey industry protested the blending of cheaper sweeteners into honey to cut costs. Domestic honey producers also claim China is using trans-shipments to flood the U.S. market with cut-rate honey (like the Chinese have already done with garlic and apples, decimating formerly vibrant agricultural regions.)

Clearly, all honey is not created equal.

Buy your honey from a farmers market, Katie says; although, here, too, all farmers markets aren’t created equal either. The Denver Urban Homesteading year-round indoor farmers market (in a hip warehouse space south of the Santa Fe Arts District) and like the Colorado Farm and Art Market is serious about putting real farmers back in farmers markets. James and Irena Bertini are carefully cultivating a place where you can buy Callicrate Beef and Windsor Dairy cheeses and Ginger’s Gourmet organic lemon curd, while also learning bushels about good food and farming.

The liquid gold from Lee’s Bees earns lavish praise from Bill and Debby Flentje, who represent Ranch Foods Direct every weekend at Denver Urban Homesteading. In Colorado Springs, Ranch Foods Direct offers pure Austin Family Honey harvested from the Paonia area on Colorado’s Western slope. And at the Colorado Farm and Art Market, Venetucci Farm sells "Sarah’s Honey." While enjoying an old-fashioned hayrack ride around the farm at one of Venetucci’s delightful starlight dinners last year, we caught a glimpse of Sarah in her bee suit tending the hives along Fountain Creek. These wholesome jars of amber are the happy result.