Brighten up your Burns night supper with some Scottish Flummery. Not an adjective but a noun!
According to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary of 1901 Flummery is an ‘acid jelly made from the husks of oats’ and water but it has since come to mean ‘an empty compliment or anything insipid’. A recipe for traditional Flummery seems to bear this out, with its description of a rather flaccid, glutinous dish, resembling porridge but with the oats carefully removed. Continue reading Burns Night Special→
Willows (Salix spp.) bloom early in the year – February or March – and are very important and popular with the bees which can be seen thudding onto the landing board bearing very large loads of powder-yellow pollen. In an exceptionally warm spring the bees may even bring in a small crop of honey but this is very rare.
They are a complex group of many species ranging from ground hugging mountain shrubs, to graceful riverside trees. Despite their diversity of form and habitat, willows are often to be found in wet, boggy places or close to water. Continue reading Bee Trees – Willow (Salix spp)→
The sycamore is a valuable tree for both bees and beekeepers. Flowering quite early in the season, late April / early May it provides copious quantities of nectar and pollen whenever the weather is good enough to allow the bees to fly. The flowers hang downwards beneath the canopy where they are protected from the rain. Sycamore honey is pale gold with a greenish tinge and pollen loads are a greenish grey. Click photo below for a close-up.
Any warm sunny days in spring the bees will be working the snowdrops so watch out for orange/brown pollen loads – see photo above.
For the bees, this fresh pollen and perhaps a little nectar heralds the beginning of a new year and may help nudge the queen into lay.
From the point of view of the snowdrops – the bees are welcome pollinators. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male parts of one flower to the female parts or another flower. Wind pollination is where male flowers or catkins of a plant, hazel for example, release massive amounts of pollen into the air where it is carried on the wind to the female flowers. Insect pollination is where the same job is carried out by an insect. To attract insects, the flowers of such plants often exude nectar.
Here is a table showing the flowering periods and pollen load colours of some of the more important plants – click it for the bigger picture. Mahonia, snowdrops and hazel are important as early sources of fresh pollen, as is willow. However, in an exceptional spring there could be a honey flow from the willow; something which would never occur with the other three. Especially the latter as it is wind pollinated and as such never bears nectar.
Here are some links to photo’s of pollen loads for the various flowers:
Honey cakes tend to be dry old things – this one isn’t – it’s a really special cake. Especially if you can find some heather honey to make it with then it is sublime.
Devonshire Honey Cake borrowed (and tested) from here
250g clear honey , plus about 2 tbsp extra to glaze
225g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
300g self-raising flour
Butter and line a 20cm round loose bottomed cake tin. Cut the butter into pieces and drop into a medium pan with the honey and sugar. Melt slowly over a low heat. When the mixture looks quite liquid, increase the heat under the pan and boil for about one minute. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes, to prevent the eggs cooking when they are mixed in.
Preheat the oven to fan 140C/ conventional 160C/gas 3. Beat the eggs into the melted honey mixture using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour into a large bowl and pour in the egg and honey mixture, beating until you have a smooth, quite runny batter.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour until the cake is well-risen, golden brown and springs back when pressed. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Sixty minutes at 140 degrees fan oven was perfect – no skewer or foil required.
Turn the cake out on a wire rack. Warm 2 tbsp honey in a small pan and brush over the top of the cake to give a sticky glaze, then leave to cool. Keeps for 4-5 days wrapped, in an airtight tin.
Mid-winter is the time to be thinking of marmalade.
If nothing else it’ll take your mind off that other old rubbish that happens towards the end of December.
Seville oranges are in season from December to February so you’ve plenty of time to be thinking about it. If you have some indifferent honey you’d like to use up, here’s a good target – oranges and honey together develop a superb depth of flavour.