Pure Honey, from the South Bronx


I went to a honey tasting the other evening that was organized by my cheesemonger friend Amy Thompson. In the back room of a subterranean East Village watering hole, set up on the oblong polished bar, were a dozen jars and squeeze-bear bottles of honey. In between sat tubs of ricotta, crudité for dipping, fresh freestone peaches, and assorted breads, crackers, and toasts. Though some of the samples were from as far away as New England, the theme of the tasting was local honeys. In fact, two were from New York City itself.

The honey that really knocked me out originated in the South Bronx. It was made by a guy named Roger Repohl, who keeps three hives in a community garden not far from Yankee Stadium, and manages to harvest about 600 pounds per year. He spoke to the group after we’d finished our sampling. A lanky and talkative guy with a thatch of dark, unruly hair, Repohl told the story of how he got started. “The community garden organizers came to me and complained that their fruit trees weren’t getting pollinated, so I said, ‘Let’s try some bees.’“ Unfortunately, the community garden was too small to fulfill the pollen needs of the bees, and they mainly ignored the small plot in favor of larger tracts of land like parks and roadsides. But the bee colonies attracted other wild pollinators (like honeybees), who smelled the honey that Repohl’s bees were making.

Rather than mixing honey from all times of the year, as larger operations are apt to do in order to make a single consistent product, Repohl likes to cull his honey into distinct spring, summer, and fall batches. At our tasting, all three varieties were displayed, and they had wildly different tastes and colors. “That’s because the bees are attracted to different flowers in each of the seasons,” Repohl explained. I particularly like the dark autumn honey, which had a strong, almost herbal flavor. I bought a bottle of the August 2007 honey, which is orangeish and has a citrusy taste. “Lots of clover in that,” Repohl noted. On the label he’d put a quote from Emily Dickinson:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee:

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

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