In an airy brick industrial building located near Denver’s hip Santa Fe art strip sits Denver Urban Homesteading. In addition to hosting weekly farmers’ markets, the center is comprised of local farmers and food-preparers who offer courses on gardening, beekeeping, and raising chickens and goats.
Local Pickins was lucky enough to attend their late September Colorado Honey Festival, and one of the first things that caught my attention was the fantastic curation of Colorado combs.
I started by sampling a sweet and balanced Clover/Alfalfa honey straight from Colorado’s Western Slope region. Longtime honey farmer Paul Limbach, who owns 2500 hives in the region, produced this delightful product. For me, this honey is a classic everyday use variety—something I could picture on top of my toast or in my tea.
The next local variety I tried was from Honeyville Colorado, a purveyor based in Durango. This honey may come from hardy Rocky Mountain bees, but it certainly has a sweet side with whipped varieties like pumpkin spice, bumbleberry, and amaretto.
From there it was onto the satiny stuff from Debeeze Honey—straight from the one-horse, one-post-office town of Pine, Colorado. This 100% raw wildflower honey tastes exactly as delicious as advertised—the texture allows for easy, non-sticky spreading much like butter. It can also be returned to a gooier state with a little heat, the creator Debbie Wilks tells me!
My favorite from Debeeze was hands-down the Jalapeno Satin, a spread that starts out sweet but kicks in with a surprisingly delectable bit of spice from the pepper’s infusion a few seconds later.
After sampling honey in raw and whipped forms, I decided it was time for the sweet stuff—I guess I mean the really sweet stuff at this point . . .
So I buzzed on over to BeeRanchCo to sample some salted honey caramels, which had a taffy texture and were made from Gamble Oak Honey and cream from a local dairy. BeeRanchCO gets their honey specifically from an apiary located in five acres of Gamble Oak trees. According to their Web site, “Honey bees are known to harvest ‘honeydew’ from the leaves of Gamble Oak, producing a slightly darker and richer honey high in antioxidants and polyphenols.”
As the scrumptious caramel morsel sprinkled with Piment d’Espelette salt literally melted in my mouth, it was no question that I would be taking a box home with me.
Next on the docket was a straight-up comb of honey—no frills necessary—served to me much like a piece of cake. Comb honey is the purest form of this stuff, according to aficionados, as it’s still encased in the original bee-made hexagonal wax. This was my first experience eating pure comb honey, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed chewing on the beeswax like gum for some time afterwards. Some claim the wax can even increase honey’s allergy-fighting properties.
The tour-de-honey ended with a perusal of the various beekeeping supplies for sale at the homesteading center, which included everything from vented bee suits to hive plans and hardware, to a live demonstration on how to extract honey from hive frames (pictured below).
The experience certainly made the idea of DIY beekeeping seem more attainable, although certainly still quite difficult!
Salted caramels in hand and a sugar high like none other, I left contemplating where I might place a hive in my own backyard.