Blackberry Honey Varietal
If you live in Oregon or have visited the state, you’ve probably gone for a beautiful walk in the woods in the warm summer weather. That means you’ve also experienced blackberries. With their amazing, sweet flavor and juicy texture, they are not only a good snack but also a great honey varietal.
Honey bees live in Oregon, too. During the summer, they forage through the fields and forests to find the beautiful blackberry blossoms. They collect pollen and nectar from the flowers and bring it back to the hive. In doing so, the bees are helping pollinate the blackberries while also feeding the hive. The nectar gives the bees energy and carbohydrates and helps make honey, and the pollen gives the bees protein and fat. While they forage and collect, honey bees make an incredible blackberry honey that everyone enjoys.
There are many ways that blackberries are unique by themselves and in relation to bees. Blackberries are the primary nectar flow in Oregon, and because blackberries are so rich in nectar, bees are naturally drawn to their flowers (Gooding). Blackberries are one of the plants that produce both nectar and honey, this is convenient for the bees because they need both of those resources to survive. While the bees are out looking for nectar, they notice a lot of blackberries. For example, in 2017, the Oregon Department of Agriculture reported 6,300 acres of farmed blackberries (Ashby). That, in addition to all the wild blackberries, makes it the largest natural source of pollen and nectar. Also, according to the USDA, Oregon was the number one producer of blackberries in 2009 (Fackler).
Since blackberries are abundant in Oregon, it is not difficult to find a place where hives can be located near blackberry bushes. One reason why it is so easy to find a farm or plot of land to put your hives on is because honey bees and blackberries benefit each other. Native, Himalayan and commercial blackberries are all self-pollinating, but the harvest increases 30% with bee pollination (Fackler). Many farmers will allow beekeepers to make a contract with them about the length of time the hives will be in their fields (Schmidlkofer). Pollination by bees is especially helpful because blackberries are very weather dependent. Temperature and precipitation can affect how well the flowers hold up and how many trips the bees can make to the flowers. During a period of heavy rain, the bees may not be able to take as many trips to the flowers compared to the number of trips they can take in fair weather.
There are several ways beekeepers make sure honey labeled as a blackberry varietal actually is. One way of knowing is to first find a location with lots of blackberries. Then, right before the season starts, put new honey supers into the hive (Gooding). Because honey bees are naturally drawn to blackberries for the amount of pollen and nectar, they only pollinate that source. This is called floral fidelity (Gooding). When honey bees find a good source of pollen or nectar, they only pollinate that source until they finish. Another way to make sure your honey is indeed blackberry is to get it tested. Some big honey producers like Queen Bee Honey get their honey tested (Schmidlkofer). The tests are to find out the main source of pollen. That way they can accurately label their honey products. This is important because honey is one of the most adulterated foods in the world (Ashby). This means that beekeepers or companies might mix many different varieties of honey together and call it one honey variety. Another example of fraud is when people mix rice or corn syrup into their honey and call it honey, or honey syrup (Ashby). It is important to label your honey accurately and truthfully.
Blackberry honey is very marketable. It has a great taste and a pretty color. Blackberry honey is known for its tangy or citrus-like flavor and vanilla-like sweetness (Schmidlkofer). Blackberry honey is the prevailing honey varietal for the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Because there are so many visitors to Oregon, beekeepers can market their honey as a souvenir. According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, there were an estimated 28.8 million visitors to Oregon in 2017 (Runyan). These visitors spent $11.8 billion (Runyan)!
If you can increase the exposure of these visitors to blackberry honey, many tourists will want to buy some. One way to raise the awareness of blackberry honey is by social media. Almost everyone has an account on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Posting pictures of blackberry flowers, your bees and updates on the hives could help people recognize the blackberry varietal. Honey producers could hold open-house events and let the tourists and locals see the hives, put on bee suites and taste different varietals. Then people will think highly of you and want to purchase some of your honey. Once people experience the taste of blackberry honey and realize the uniqueness of varietals, they may become loyal to blackberry honey. They may also seek out varietals of honey wherever they travel.
After visiting Oregon and taking your hike in the woods, you’ve experienced blackberries and honey bees. You understand how they help each other, and without each other, they wouldn’t be as successful. You know how special blackberry flowers are and how abundant they are in Oregon. You trust local beekeepers to label their honey correctly. And, you know how they market their blackberry honey. You have also tasted the amazing, tangy blackberry honey and will never forget it!
Schmidlkofer, Jane. Personal interview. 10 February 2019.
Fackler, Brian. Personal interview. 11 February 2019.
Ashby, Anna. Personal interview. 10 February 2019.
Gooding, Troy. Personal interview. 9 February 2019.
Runyan, Dean. Oregon Travel Impacts, TravelOregon.com.