Clover Honey From the High Plains

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Photo by Or Hiltch/FlickrCC


Like it or not, we all have our prejudices. It's sort of inevitable, I think. I can't figure out how anyone could grow up without any, though maybe somewhere out there... Anyways, the challenge, to my sense of things, isn't to not have biases, but really just to acknowledge what they are and get them out in the "open" in our minds. Once we've accepted them then we can work actively and constructively to overcome them and keep them from getting in the way of the way we interact with the world. That's true of most everything, and, for me at least, it's totally true with honey too.

Having spent so many years now writing, talking, and teaching about great varietal honeys, I've really come to pooh pooh (sorry--couldn't resist) clover honey. While the vast majority of the clover honey out there is perfectly fine to eat, and certainly sweet, it generally lacks most or all of the complexity and depth that I've come to love about great honeys. I'll own my bias: When I hear "clover" what comes to my mind is basically akin to the "American singles" of the honey world.

You can do anything you want with a honey like this. For me, a spoonful or two on its own make a really great dessert.

At least that's how I thought about it up until about a month ago. The great thing of all biases is that, even when partially rooted in some isolated element of reality, they're almost always proven wrong later by what turn out to be pretty excellent examples of the bias' inexactitude and inaccuracy. So that's a long preface to a couple paragraphs about this really amazing honey from out West: High Plains clover honey

It comes to us through Amina and Yishai Harris, who've been running their little honey company, known as Moonshine Trading , out in California since 1979. We've been buying great varietal honeys from them for as long as I can remember, at least 20 years now, probably a bit longer. While Amina and Yishai have both worked extensively with bees and hives directly, mostly what they do as Moonshine is to seek out other great beekeepers, taste the various honeys that are out there, and then figure out how to get them from the apiary to folks like us in Ann Arbor.

Between their experience and their location they're pretty ideally suited to that work. "Because we're located so close to Sacramento--pretty much right smack dab in the middle of California--over the years we have developed a far-reaching network of beekeepers who either are based in California or who travel through here to move their bees into the almonds in the spring and then on to the citrus groves that begin near Fresno and head on south to San Diego," Amina said.

More specifically the clover comes from the high (over 5,000 feet) up plains out west in Wyoming and South Dakota. "It's from a beekeeper we've been working with for almost 30 years," Amina added. "He travels from the far eastern edge of Montana to California and on to Hawaii! With bee boxes piled on the back of his truck, bees are moved from sweet clover in the summer, winter in California, move into the citrus in the Spring and then into the fields of Star Thistle that grow rampant all over Northern California.

"When he needs a break, he flies out to the Big Island and works his colonies there producing Lehua and Christmas Berry Honey. He knows when honey is good, and he knew that last year was a stupendous year for Sweet Clover. So we bought all we could. After all, it's my very favorite all-time honey."

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Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.
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