In New York, Seriously Local Honey - NYT 9/01/09

(Bitten’s resident beekeeper visits with one of the industry’s legends. –MB)

Though the Greenmarket at Rockefeller Center is slow on a recent Thursday morning, Andrew Coté is busy. As the heat of the day begins to descend, Andrew uses ice cubes to cool his observation hive filled with bees, answers phone calls, chats with customers and fidgets with the jars of honey for sale, seemingly simultaneously.

The man does not rest. “I went to bed at midnight, got up at four,” he says to me, looking clear-eyed and not appearing particularly tired or upset by the lack of sleep.

Andrew’s Honey (or more accurately, Andrew’s Taste-Bud Bursting Local Wildflower Honey) is from hives in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. He sells the honey at the city’s Greenmarkets — Wednesday Union Square, Friday City Hall, Sunday Tompkins Square Park — in jars carrying drawings done by his friend Mio, a Japanese woman he met nine years ago in Turkey.

Andrew, a third-generation beekeeper (who also maintains Silvermine Apiaries in Connecticut, which you can read more about here) is the president and founder of the 180-member New York City Beekeepers Association. In his free time he travels to places like Uganda and Zimbabwe through Bees Without Borders, an organization he founded to “teach locals the art of beekeeping as a means of poverty alleviation.”

Andrew takes a seven-hour lap around New York City twice a week to check on his hives. The result is a deep, smooth wildflower honey with distinctive caramel and fruit flavors. The rich amber color radiates from the jar.

The honey crop this year has not been good (“Thirty percent of my usual yield,” he said), thanks to the rainy summer. The trees and flowers were late to bloom and it wasn’t sunny long enough for the bees to fly anyway. When the bees can’t fly, they can’t collect nectar; when they can’t collect nectar, they can’t make honey; when they can’t make honey, there’s not enough to extract from the hive without the bees starving over the winter. Despite the smaller crop, Andrew seems to have plenty of honey available for sale.

When I returned home from visiting Andrew, my husband and I opened a jar of Brooklyn honey and drizzled it lightly over grilled New Jersey peaches — a gorgeous mix of smooth flavors that melted and lingered on our tongues.

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