Harris : Scotch Broom & Dewberry
This apiary is located near the Marys River upstream from the Harris Covered Bridge between the community of Harris and the town of Blodgett. The Harris Covered Bridge opened in 1936 and continues to this day as a functional and scenic landmark. Harris Road is a popular bike route, and nearby Harris Bridge Vineyard brings a lot of visitors out to the area.
The apiary is on the eastern edge of the Oregon Coast Range, so it’s in more of an oak-fir mixed woodland as opposed to our more western locations that are fir-, alder-, and hemlock-dominant. The spot also has a significant population of snowberry, knapweed, poison-oak, and minor wildflowers.
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is a non-native, invasive species originally introduced as a nitrogen-fixing agroforestry cover crop. It turns out that scotch broom actually exudes a chemical into the soil that retards the growth of other species, and scientists and landowners have been trying to eradicate it and/or manage its spread for decades. Scotch broom flowers are proportionally best suited to bumble bee pollination, so they can be somewhat injurious to honeybees. As honeybees exit the nectar cavity, the flower bumps them in the back and dumps a load of pollen on them so that when they get back to the hive, they’re a little beat up and look like they’re covered in Cheeto dust. The scotch broom pollen is likely the strongest flavor element in this honey varietal.
Dewberry (Rubus ursinus), also knows as trailing blackberry or trip briar, is a low-growing native blackberry that produces edible fruits later in the summer. The dewberry bloom is one of the principle spring nectar flows for bees in the Pacific Northwest.
This honey has a smokey, dried apricot flavor.
Boone Island : Tideland Wildflower
Boone Island and the adjacent shallows was formed by an ancient oxbow in the Yaquina River near Toledo, OR. The area has interesting tideland marshes dominated by tufted hair grass, gumweed, yarrow, Douglas’ aster, sedges, and orach. Upstream of the saltwater exclusion gates, the honeybee habitat is primarily made up of non-native blackberry and lotus with lesser nectar coming from fireweed, pearly everlasting, and gumweed. Boone Island was a major navigational point on the lower Yaquina for tugboats towing log rafts from the turn of the last century until the 1960s.
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.
Non-native lotus (Lotus corniculatus) was widely touted during the heyday of small scale dairying in Western Oregon as “poor man’s alfalfa” because of its adaptability to our region’s growing conditions. Lotus is nitrogen fixing and tolerates waterlogged and/or heavy clay soils. Its high tannin content prevents bloating in livestock but also reduces the forage quality of the plant material. It blooms early and continues to produce yellow flowers on wet sites until the first frost. The extra moisture in this area created by tidal influence causes the plant to secrete more nectar than is seen in other sites. The bees work lotus for both nectar and pollen.
This honey has a molasses and lemon taste.
Smith Island : Pumpkin
Smith Island, an island in the Willamette River just south of Corvallis, is still farmed by relatives of its namesake Green Berry Smith. The nearby community of Greenberry was also named after the same pioneer who arrived in the area in 1846. Loren Smith and his son Dan Smith grow a variety of seed and forage crops on the island including hairy vetch, red clover, orchard grass, arrowleaf clover, alfalfa, and pumpkins.
Loren has always been very conscientious about maintaining native pollinator habitat in the riparian areas, gravel bars, and periphery of farm fields. The staggered bloom times of the various crops he grows support impressive pollinator species diversity. We brought these bees in to pollinate later-blooming pumpkins.
The pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) field was planted with an heirloom, hubbard-type “Golden Delicious” pumpkin grown for its edible seeds that are used for the snack market. The vines bloom through August, and the resulting pumpkin honey was one of the last of the season batches we harvested. Pumpkin flowers yield dark nectar, resulting in very dark honey.
This honey has a tart and earthy candy corn flavor with a tamarind finish.