In the book A Short History of the Honey Bee, beekeeper E. Readicker-Henderson implores: “Forget the wine snobs who tell you that what they drink is the essence of the country. Honey is more than that: It is the truest distillation of the landscape. …” Readicker-Henderson collected honey from all over the world, including a jar from Croatia “that tasted like smoke.” What about a jar from Las Vegas?
Tamara J. Wynne knows local honey. She works as a research associate at the Research Center & Demonstration Orchard in North Las Vegas tending to 650 fruit trees, around 200 grapevines and five beehives. Wynne studied plant science in upstate New York (at Cornell University) and remarks that “the honey is way sweeter here because it’s so dry. There is not a lot of water in it.”
The flavor is also infused with the essence of flowers unique to the region. Honeybees imbibe the nectar of flowers as they go about their work of pollination, and that distinctive nectar is the base ingredient for honey.
Studies have shown that the antioxidants in honey can decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Local honey can differ from store-bought honey for a variety of reasons. “If you buy ‘honey’ in the store, it may not necessarily be honey,” Wynne says. It could be corn syrup or be heavily watered down. It could also be produced by bees drinking sugar water, not the nutritious nectar of plants. Even some local beekeepers use sugar water as a supplement. “The nutritional content may not be the same,” Wynne says. So be sure to ask your beekeeper what they’re feeding their bees. Sugar instead of nectar could undermine the nutritional content of honey and diminish its health benefits.
Although Wynne shares that many of her regular honey buyers swear local honey has cured their seasonal allergies, scientific studies do not support the claim. But studies have shown that the antioxidants in honey can decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer. Honey also kills bacteria, which is why some people apply it to small wounds.
The main way honeybees help us out is by pollinating flowers—one-third of our daily diet depends on bee pollination—but it is the sweetness of honey that most likely inspired humans to start keeping bees. Before manufactured beehives, people tracked wild hives, and once discovered, they could claim ownership and legally defend the hive from poachers.
Today, anyone can keep bees in their backyard. Wynne, who learned beekeeping at Cornell and on the job, also draws knowledge from The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook. She shares that advances in beekeeping have made it easier. For example, the recently invented Flow Hive beehive kit makes collecting honey as easy as tapping a keg, maybe easier. “You just turn the crank, and the honey comes right out the hive,” she says.
Photos by Emily Wilson
Wynne harvests the honey at the Demonstration Orchard in the fall, and it sells out quickly, so you can’t purchase any now. However, the beehives at the Demonstration Orchard are not the only local honey producers. A quick internet search reveals a list of producers, from backyard cultivators to larger operations including Pahrump Honey Company and Annsley Naturals Southwest. Some offer their fare online, and many make appearances at farmers markets.
To find out when honey is available at the Demonstration Orchard (4600 Horse Dr., North Las Vegas), sign up for its newsletter by emailing Wynne at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting in person. The orchard is open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.