20 May, 2010


I've been going to the same beekeeper, Meger & Galibert, for the better part of a decade now, this even though it's not at all down the road, unlike say, my bee-keeping neighbor. In fact, there are probably a dozen different beekeepers operating closer by, and while I do try other artisanal honeys, I keep coming back to my favorite. My Parisian friends, whom I will be meeting up with in a sleepy Burgundy village over the weekend, asked that I pick up their favorite honey--from my favorite beekeeper. Before leaving the house, I remembered to slip my camera in my basket, so that you can come along for the ride.I remember one of the first times I came calling for some honey. The honey sales are in a barn right next to the house. This tiny, old lady came out of the kitchen pulling on her little sweater after I'd yanked at their bell (this was before they started posting their opening hours). I was appalled, as I suddenly realized it was siesta time, and I had most likely woken her. As we chatted, she mentioned she was feeling a bit tired, so I swiftly apologized for disturbing her, and she laughed at me, waving a dismissive, wrinkled hand: "Now don't you mind, I've been up since 4 am, getting the honey ready for the [outdoor] market. I'll have plenty of time to nap when I'm dead."Honey has been flowing in this family's veins for three generations. From the matriarch on down, everyone takes a tiny amount of royal bee jelly daily, slid under the tongue before breakfast, said to be good for immunity and energy. They're certainly all as spry as can be. The only time I've ever seen M.Meger down is when he talked about the heavy losses in his and fellow beekeepers' bee populations and the on-going global bee crisis.
The back of the truck.
Judging by the number of cups, medals and certificates lining the walls of the shop, I am not alone in my passion for their honey. They offer a dozen different kinds ranging from the palest, creamy AOC lavender of Provence honey and crystallized rosemary honey, to the far darker chestnut honey, metcalfa (or honeydew), and heather and the darkest of all, the pine honey and Corbières. They also sell their own pollen, beeswax, and certified (award-winning), highly potent royal bee jelly.
Scraping off the beeswax seal.
Many people make a real fetish of Provencal lavender honey, and theirs truly is stand-out: a pure, highly aromatic lavender honey. Having said this, I prefer the fuller-tasting rosemary, and their Provencal blend of lavender and wildflowers.
Once this extractor starts spinning, the honey will run down the inside walls.
My own real fetish? The darker the better, whether a blend or a single varietal. Some of the honeys approach molasses in appearance and taste, others have a distinct mineral or herbal overlay. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the less sweet and more complex the taste.
There it comes out of the extractor...ready to eat!
Being self-respecting French beekeepers un peu tendence (just a bit in step with the trends), they also sell a honey-based, organic line of beauty products, made in Provence. I can vouch for the hand cream, as effective as they come, quickly absorbed by my parched hands without any greasy feeling.
This is a heather and thyme blend.
But you can also make your own beauty products, for a fraction of the price, and not too much trouble. The U.S. Honey Board features some great-sounding "recipes" online for those who'd like to have that spa feeling at home. I'm partial to the recipe for lip balm, "Honey-Kissed", but if someone were to whip up a batch of Lavender-Honey Milk Bath for me, I don't believe I'd say no.

While one of my favorite cooking techniques is braising lamb with honey, I add it to a salad dressing of Roquefort, a touch of homemade mayonnaise, lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. Honey also goes in countless desserts: across baked fruit, or over a puff pastry apple and ginger tart, in ice cream or in dainty orange tea cakes, even in whipped cream. Simplest and perhaps best of all, slathered on a slice of really good bread, with a slash of butter. I always have at least two different types of honey at the ready. Because you never know.
This is what I went home with.
The beekeepers Meger & Galibert can be found at the Ganges outdoor market on Fridays and at the Sommières market on Saturdays. They also ship within France and overseas...(tel: +33(0)4 66 80 12 96, email: rucher.garrigues.gardoises@wanadoo.fr)


  1. Swooning. Lavender honey?!

    My local honey is usually orange-blossom. It's pretty darn good. We put honey on just about everything in our house, too. My girl requests a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch nearly every day. But I suppose there's not a whole lot of peanut butter eating where you are...

  2. French baguette, butter and honey; delicious!

  3. Hi Rose,
    This time around, I bought some lavender honey. And you know, it really is fairly sublime. Peanut butter is hardly even available here, but Nutella, well, that's another story...

    Hi Nadege,
    If the bread's really good, you don't even need the butter and honey. But boy, when you've good butter and honey, and a cup of tea under a shaded tree, you're in like Flynn!

  4. The local honeys here are usually mixed with blueberry or saskatoon berry. The blueberry one is the popular one.

    I taste the different with home-based honey and mass honey production. Do you?

  5. Really, Indonesia-Eats? Fruit is mixed into the honey? I'm not familiar with that. Here, beekeepers will mix nuts such as walnuts into the honey. I definitely taste a difference between small-scale,"artisanal" production and the industrial stuff you usually find in supermarkets, but it has been a really long time since I have tasted any mass-produced stuff! I also like the greater selection in the artisanal honeys. By the way, sorry it took me a while to respond: I just now returned from a long weekend away. Hope to find time to write some more tonight...

  6. I had a close friend (French) who used to believe "dur comme fer" in the powers of royal bee jelly;
    this honey producer is so passionate about what he does, I would love to order from them; I will keep it in mind when I am in Lebanon, a bit closer from France than the US.

  7. Hi Joumana,
    I really don't think you will regret trying their honey. If you would eventually like more detailed impressions of the flavors of the honeys, just ask me!


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