Siletz : Vine Maple & Blueberry
Our Siletz apiary is at Gibson Farms where our bees pollinate 20 acres of blueberry bushes in the early spring. The first bushes in the patch were planted in 1948, and the farm has been under the management of the same family for almost 70 years. Gibson Farms is surrounded by pastureland, riparian areas, and regenerating forest with significant populations of vine maple and scotch broom. The bees don’t generally make surplus honey out of blueberry nectar, but toward the tail end of the blueberry pollination period, they tend to forage in the surrounding area and produce some extra honey.
Vine maple (Acer circinatum) is a large, native shrub that can form impenetrable thickets. It blooms in late April to early May with small, red flowers. Often wet Oregon spring weather prevents bees from producing an abundant vine maple honey crop, but the flowers are a good nectar and pollen source if bees can fly to access them.
Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is widely planted in the Pacific Northwest for its delicious berries. The state of Oregon alone produces over 100 million pounds of blueberries annually. On a normal year, the bees won’t make any surplus blueberry honey, but in 2018, the conditions were good enough to make a small crop. We bottled most of this honey for the Gibson family to sell directly to their U-pick customers but held back enough to be able to offer it in the sampler.
The vine maple gives this honey a similar flavor to bigleaf maple with notes of eucalyptus and toothpaste. The blueberry nectar gives it a more mellow, buttery flavor.
Tangent : Meadowfoam
The town of Tangent is at the heart of the grass seed growing region in the Willamette Valley. Farmer Cody Younger, a classmate of Henry’s at OSU, rotates vegetable seed, oilseed, and cover crops through his grass seed fields.
Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Benth.) is a low, almost succulent-like plant native to Oregon and California that naturally grows in vernal pools. If you’ve ever driven through the Willamette Valley in June, you’ve probably noticed blindingly white fields of meadowfoam in bloom. Nearly all commercially produced meadowfoam seed is grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. After the seed is harvested in early summer, it is pressed into an oil that is mostly used in cosmetics.
Meadowfoam honey is widely known for its strong vanilla and/or marshmallow flavors. Most commercially available meadowfoam honey is extracted after the blackberry bloom, so it can be more subdued and marshmallowy. This honey also has a propensity to crystallize more readily than other honeys.
This honey was extracted during the meadowfoam bloom and has an intense vanilla and root beer flavor.
Feagles Creek : Wild Blackberry & Thistle
Our Feagles Creek apiary is in a cattle pasture near Harlan, OR. The farm, once homestead ground, is now passively managed by the Kessi family. While there’s plenty of grass for cows in the field, there’s also a lot of broadleaf plant diversity. The Kessis use goats to control weeds on other parts of the ranch, but this area is more remote with relatively large predator populations, making it unsafe for goat foraging ground. The surrounding hills are managed for timber production and wildlife habitat with both Coast Range conifers and hardwood trees.
Himalayan backberry (Rubus bifrons and Rubus vestitus) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.
Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense) is a common perennial weed in Western Oregon that persists in pastureland unless it’s sprayed. There are several effective biocontrol techniques for preventing the spread of Canadian thistle, but eradication has not been possible so far.
The Old Blue beehives kept in the Feagles Creek apiary are all queen breeder colonies. These treatment-free hives have been selected for multiple characteristics including disease resistance, wintering ability, and honey production. One of our main breeding lines, “Kessi”, originated from a feral honeybee colony thriving in this area.
This honey has a nutty, dried fruit taste with lingering pollen notes.