Many foods have fans, but honey has real partisans -- front-line warriors evangelizing on behalf of the saccharine stuff. Registered dietitian Gretchen Schmitt, of New Kensington, saw fit to write and publish a book extolling the sweetener's virtues.
In Honey for All, Schmitt presents a quirky spiral-bound pastiche of honey history, recipes, scrapbook-style images and folksy poems and reflections.
Schmitt outlines recommendations for purchasing honey (buy local), storing it (room temperature, to prevent crystallization), and using it as a sugar substitute in cooking.
Aliquippa beekeeper Rob Steffes would agree with the buy-local sentiment. Honey from local nectar is a folk remedy for hay fever, and honey is also credited with soothing sore throats and burns. "A lot of our customers swear by the allergy-relieving properties of local honey," Steffes says, "though I'm not aware of any scientific studies on the subject."
He adds that while "[a] lot of foreign honey is cheaper," honey produced locally may be more trustworthy. There have been concerns about the health effects of antibiotics added to some honey, especially from China.
Steffes is working to help more city dwellers get access to local honey with Burgh Bees, an initiative that helps folks in Pittsburgh raise their own bees.
To his knowledge, there aren't any specific ordinances concerning the keeping of bees within city limits -- and a search of the city's municipal code didn't turn up any mention of them. The inherent problem, of course, is the stigma attached to the stinger.
"Part of the project is making sure the bee-human interface stays calm," explains Steffes. Burgh Bees is offering an informational session April 1 at the East End Food Co-Op for those they call "Bee-Curious." (Honey partisans seem to be pun fanatics as well.) Those who think they're ready to make the leap can take a longer, more in-depth course in beekeeping throughout the year.
For those without space for hives, Burgh Bees is working on two proposed urban apiaries -- community hives with common-use honey extractors -- in conjunction with community gardens in Hazelwood and Braddock.
This buzz of activity means more local honey for us. Sweet.
More information on Burgh Bees at email@example.com; Schmitt's book Honey For All is available at bookstores and farmers' markets throughout Westmoreland County, or through the author at firstname.lastname@example.org