By Rochelle Bilow
Perhaps because honey is considered the ultimate local food, boasting a true sense of terroir and a sense of place, for locavores and food purists there’s little more exciting than crunching on a piece of local honeycomb.
Since honey is made from the pollen of local flowers, weeds and plants, it’s often prescribed as a cure for persistent allergies. Some people even swear a spoonful of the sweet stuff is a no-fail morning after hangover fix. But what’s truly great about local honey is its full, rich and extremely diverse flavor profile.
However, the latest craze in all things honey isn’t new at all – honey aficionados and restaurant goers are digging into honeycomb in lieu of the sticky liquid version.
Duane Waid of Waid Apiaries explains the difference.
“It’s the same product as liquid honey, but it’s just never been touched by human hands. [The liquid version] is extracted by spinning in a centrifuge, but when you get a comb, you just eat the honey right out of the cells.”
Why make the switch from squeeze bottle to comb?
“There’s more flavor in comb honey,” Waid says, citing the fact that it’s left in its purest state as the main reason why. “The beeswax and cells also make it like a canned product; it preserves the honey.”
Waid Apiaries sells their comb in a few different variations, including “cut comb,” 4-inch frames cut out of a larger block, and a combination of honey and beeswax that melds together to form a creamy spread that’s dynamite on English muffins and bagels.
Beekeepers aren’t the only ones privy to the secret of chewy, sweet and fragrant honeycomb. Restaurants and foodies in the Finger Lakes are taking notice of the trend, as well. Mary Jane Challen of the Copper Oven in Ovid features comb from Waid Apiaries on her menu, pairing it with local cheeses, seasonal fruit and wood-fired flatbread. Why insist on comb instead of a drizzle of the liquid form? It’s all about the experience.
Honeycomb has a pleasantly thick, chewy texture that packs more than a one-two punch of sweet. As Waid recalls, “I remember eating it as a kid. I’d chew chunks of the beeswax just like gum.”
Is beeswax gum the next big thing? Who knows – but for now, the demand for fresh, local culinary honeycomb is keeping Finger Lakes beekeepers busy as, well, you know.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of the magazine.