Chestnut: A bitter flavour from the hives prior to the honey of summer.

A heavy, woody fragrance suffuses the air about the apiary…
The bees fly about in a frenzy, their legs ferrying tiny yellow balls of pollen: the blossoming of chestnut trees has begun…

In the prefecture of Chania, the flowering of chestnut begins at the end of May or beginning of June—around the time that savoury and wild oregano blooms—and fills the ‘gap’ until the thyme begins to flower, the much-awaited and highly sought-after quarry of the beekeepers of the island.

This phenomenon, the presence of a high total number of pollen grains from chestnut in the microscopic honey pollen analysis (melissopalynology) of thyme honey, has been characterised in chemical analysis as being “a case of tertiary (cross-)contamination by chestnut pollen stored in the frames (around the perimeter of the brood nest) during extraction by centrifugal force”.

In other words, when harvesting honey from areas with thyme from bees that have sojourned amongst chestnut trees, the uncapping of the frames and the honey extraction process via centrifugal force frees up the chestnut pollen from June (stored in the honeycomb) and thus also the properties-identity of the honey!

Ha! Ha!

Honey bees tend to collect from chestnut trees more zealously in the morning, as well as in the cooler hours of late afternoon and early evening.

As with all intense periods of florescence, while observing honey bees at work amongst chestnut blossoms, we share in a bit of the fragrance, flavour and energy that they carry in from the forest to the hive.