I’m the Honeydew Honey

There are many downsides to travelling alone.  It is not as fun when you can’t share an experience with someone.  When you come back, no one really can get an idea of what you’ve done or what you’ve seen.  It’s always nice to have someone along for the ride.

But, sometimes travelling alone opens you up to the unexpected. Running into an old colleague leads to a drink, which leads to meeting a new acquaintance, which leads to a glass of wine and then a  bottle wine and a nice dinner and then an unexpectedly great evening.  

I say all this as a caveat.  Yes, the evening was great, but the wine may have made what follows more interesting at the time.

I’m in Wellington and it’s a fairly balmy evening and after dinner I stumbled upon an alley night market with some great sounds and smells coming from down the alley. Diving in,  I chanced upon a honey guy.  Actually, it was honey kid.  He’s some 21 yo college kid studying bees and business.  School full time, business full time and beekeeping full time.  It was rather impressive.  

Anyway, Mrs. S.A.M. had given me a task.

Maybe as retribution for travelling so often, she gives me tasks.  

“Bring me the broomstick from the wicked witch of the east!”  

“Return this ring to the fires of Mordor!”  

Bring me a selection of cheeses from the pasturelands of Australia despite your lack of reliable refrigeration for a week.  

Often these tasks involve money. She once asked me to bring her a black opal, neglecting to tell me that black opals are only found in one place on earth and thus are the most expensive.   I like a good challenge though.  It’s a quest.

This trip’s quest?  A simple one. Honey.  Specifically Manuka honey grown from a type of tea tree in New Zealand. It is well known for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

So, I found this honey guy and he’s selling Manuka honey. Great, I think.  Quest accomplished!  

Because he’s a honey geek he proceeds to tell me that this manuka honey has been tested at 180 MOG.  I tell him I have no idea what a MOG is.  He says it is a measure of something honey has and the 180 is a good number to have.

He then proceeds to give me a primer on all the honeys of New Zealand, opening jars and dipping toothpicks and letting me taste each one.  Manuka, Kanuka, clover, creamed and so on down the line.

Now here is the fascinating part ( or not so fascinating part)  He pulled out a jar of Honeydew Honey and explains that this honey is made in a rather bizarre symbiotic relationship.  There is this aphid that burrows into a beech tree in southern New Zealand.  Once it burrows there, it secretes fluid with pheromones and nectar that attracts the bees. The bees fly around the bark of the tree collecting all the aphid secretions. They go back and make honey out of it.  But the honey doesn’t have enough sugars in it to be of any use to the bees and so their hives fill up with what is essentially a waste product and the colony flies away before it starves.

My beekeeper friend collects the honey, thus saving the colony a move and making this interesting honey to sell. He tells me it’s got lots of MOGs and other mystical properties and it’s the only honey that true vegans can use because it is not a product that exploits the animals.  Who knows if that is correct.  

Again, at the time, maybe with the wine, I thought it was a pretty cool nature story.  Now, though, a day or two later? Maybe not, but at any rate I accomplished my task.

Until the next day when I checked and realized that my next stop in the Pacific won’t allow anyone to bring in honey.  So, I must spend $50 to ship the honey home in the mail. Fifty dollars! That’s almost thirty cents per MOG!

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