comb honey miscellaneous musings

Like honey in the bank

If you opened the door to my fridge today, thirty-five pounds of chanterelles would avalanche to the floor. They’re in boxes and bags, stashed in every conceivable cranny. I acquired this overwhelming supply of ‘shrooms in exchange for a few squares of comb honey. I’ve also traded honey for concord grapes, line-caught salmon, new potatoes, and organic berries. In fact, you can buy just about anything with honey.

Since I don’t sell honey, people often ask what I do with it all. I began to think about this and realized that I use it like money—sort of, except I don’t attach a dollar value to it.

This all started when I began giving it away. I adore comb honey and most people have no idea that such a thing even exists. I wanted people who have never tried it to experience it first hand, so I began giving it to folks along with printed instructions on how to eat it. (Please eat it with something, not in a big choking wad that you eventually spit out. Gross.)

Anyway, it turns out that when you give things to people, they often give you something back—things you never even asked for. So, this being the Pacific Northwest, I’ve garnered wild mushrooms of every conceivable variety, all kinds of produce from greens to beans to peaches, and various types of edible marine creatures. I’ve also received home-canned salsa and soup and even birch syrup, and I’m about to trade comb honey for doggy daycare.


This little tyke discovered an empty section box and found it much to her liking. Luckily, she was old enough (just barely) to eat raw honey. Photo and child © AJDavis.

When I first started beekeeping I wanted comb honey, and because I wanted it so fervently, I didn’t get much the first few years. But then I totally fell in love with the bees and I stopped thinking about the honey. I bought some at the farmer’s market and raised bees for the sake of raising bees.

Once my attention shifted focus, once I started caring about the bees instead of their product, everything fell into place. I have never worried about honey since—gallons and gallons of it appear out of nowhere. When I take good care of my bees, honey happens. Now my only worries are how to lift it, how to store it, and where to put it.

There’s a lesson or two in here I think: Take care of your bees, and they will take care of you. Take care of your friends, and they will take care of you, too.

But now I’m done being philosophical, at least for today. I’ve got bigger problems, like what to do with thirty-five pounds of ‘shrooms.



    • Jane,

      A recipe! How thoughtful. I love cheese, love broccoli . . . it looks like a go. I will let you know how it works with chanterelles. Your shiitakes look great, by the way; I want to try that.

  • Rusty,

    Your comb honey talk has finally stuck like mud to the wall of my hind thoughts. I’ve read Dave Cushmans and Romanov’s websites. I am now reading Doolittle’s publication on comb honey. Would you now care to share your thoughts and methods in a separate blog, maybe?

    • Aram,

      About a hundred people have asked for the same thing, so I’m going to actually do it. It will take a number of long posts, but hey, winter is coming. I agree with the “authorities” on some aspects of comb honey production and disagree with others. I’ve been going to write about it for several years, but it seems like such a huge task. But yes, it’s time.

  • Rusty, I would love to know what instructions you include with your comb honey. This year I interspersed some foundationless frames with my drawn comb (on foundation), so that I could get some nice frames of comb honey. I plan to give some of it away at Christmastime and would love to hear what you advise eaters.

    Enjoy the chanterelles! It’s mushroom season! 🙂

  • Hi Rusty,

    I was going to suggest preserving your chanterelles in butter which you melt then cover the mushrooms with, but I checked first and the method described below is how it should be done. It is on the web at a How to or Ask site and the author is Leda Meredith.

    Sautee in butter or oil

    Clean and, if desired, chop the chanterelles. Heat a skillet over medium low heat and melt a little butter in it. Add the chanterelles and cook, stirring or flipping them over occasionally, until they first release their juices and then reabsorb them. Because chanterelles are relatively dry mushrooms, this takes less time than it does with other mushrooms, usually just 5 to 10 minutes.

    Remove the chanterelles from the heat and let them cool for a few minutes. Transfer them to freezer bags or containers and freeze. Leda Meredith

    Maybe you can swap honeycomb for butter somewhere along the line. By the way, I don’t sell my honey either. I prefer to do it your way as well. I think of it as an enormous gift and you don’t sell your gifts do you?

    Bye for now Lindy

    • Lindy,

      That’s exactly how I do it! I first learned it from a handbook on mushroom hunting that said chanterelles don’t freeze well unless you cook them first. The friend who gave the mushrooms to me always cans them, but I don’t like the texture of them canned, so I always go with saute then freeze.

  • A friend of ours wanted to bring some bees to the NC mountains to collect honey this spring. I had no problem with that. After helping him check them a couple times I realized how gentle they can be. In March we lost our 23-year-old son. I would sit for hours watching the bees. I ask my friend if he could start me a hive. He brought me a nuc and split one he had here. These ladies have been so helpful to me. They have been my therapy of losing a son.

    I enjoy custom woodworking. I built two log cabin hives for my ladies. One with a simple front porch and a church-style hive. I love my girls. Even this fall they have been so gentle. (Except when two of them decided to see what was up my shirt sleeve…) As you have stated, it’s not about the honey. To me it’s the healing power of one of God’s little creatures. My two hives are very strong going into winter. I feel good that they will survive.

    • Wes,

      Your hives sound beautiful. Could you send some photos? I would love to add them to the Hive Gallery section. And I agree, there is something about sitting alone with a beehive that is both peaceful and restorative.

  • Can I reply to this as anonymous? LOL as I consider writing this. The last time I heard of mushrooms as shrooms was on a tv show or movie . . . and they were being smoked!!!!!!!! And yes, I have found that if you give away a bit of honey, it is not really given away. For the most part it is a loan, and payment is usually something just as interesting.

    • Anonymous,

      Are you sure it was a movie or tv show? Your hesitancy to be identified makes me think otherwise! But yes, that is exactly where the word comes from and exactly why I use it . . . why should only shroom-heads have fun with words? I’ve been calling all mushrooms “shrooms” for years; other people can think what they like.

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