The Importation of Honey: Why things aren’t as they seem

Since I ventured into beekeeping 8 years ago the regulations on the importation of honey (and the illicit honey trade) have been an important talking point. For years the issue has bubbled to the surface and died down only for the cycle to restart all over again.

There are 2 very important pieces of legislation at play. The Trinidad and Tobago Beekeeping and Beeproducts Act essentially bans the importation of honey and our trade agreements with CARICOM that facilitate the free movement of goods.

But is importing honey from CARICOM nations the issue? In my opinion, it’s not. Why? Because Trinidad and Tobago already produces more honey than any of our English-speaking neighbours excluding Jamaica. If all of the honey produced in Grenada was sold in Trinidad it would do very little damage to the local industry. The real challenge is the ‘passing off’ of “honey” from other countries like China and India as being produced within the region.

While many would be tempted to go through the talking points of checks and balances and adequate testing our industry has long passed that point. And, as the United States Department of Agriculture data clearly shows, we are already importing. We (T&T) are the largest importers of ‘honey’ in the southern Caribbean.

Where is all this honey going? On supermarket shelves and groceries, being sold at the side of the road with someone’s borrowed (or stolen) apiary number most likely. All while honey production within the United States has steadily declined year after year. Yes, the United States also, now imports more honey than it produces….crazy right? We are (illegally) importing honey from a country that imports more honey than it produces. A country that has its issues with large volumes of honey fraud. After all, honey is one of the most faked foods in the world.

I’ve also thought about the idea that bringing cheap imports will lower prices and I don’t know if that is true. With all of the foreign honey, and adulterated honey currently on the market the price hasn’t changed. All it has done is created an avenue for greedy people to fill their pockets by labelling imported honey as local. This, I believe is the real challenge. By doing this the rights of the consumer to make informed decisions for themselves and their families are being taken away.

“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food” – Hippocrates

Moroccan Honey Sweet (Parata)

parata recipie uing honey
Parata

Honey is so much more than a sweetner. This recepie is a great way to use honey in your Eid celebrations this year.

Eid-al-Fitr (Eid al-Fitr, Eid ul-Fitr, Id-Ul-Fitr, Eid) is the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. It marks the end of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting and prayer. Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutba(sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr.

We found this great Moroccan inspired recipe that you can try with your family this Eid.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg all-purpose white flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • For the rest of the procedure you will need
  • oil (for frying)
  • Sesame seeds or nuts you will garnish with
  • 1 jar of pure honey
  • 1 cap full of yellow colouring
  • 1 cap full of vanilla essence

Instructions:

  • Make a soft dough from the flour, egg, .salt, vanilla extract, baking powder, cinnamon & nutmeg. (you can mix all the wet ingredient together with the pint of warm water before adding a little at a time into the dry ingredients.
  • knead the dough from any air bubbles and then smother in oil and leave to stand for a few mins
  • Shape the dough into small balls and place in a greased tray.
    When you have finished making your balls cover with clingfilm or a plastic bag and leave for a further 20-30 mins
  • Place a dough ball on a greased smooth and flat surface and smooth out into a thin circle, the pastry should be thin enough to see through onto the surface you are working on.
  • Then fold the top of the circle onto the middle of the circle, then pick up the bottom bit of the circle and overlap it onto the top of the first fold making a very long rectangle.
  • Then repeat the above process this the other 2 sides, folding it neatly into a square shape.
  • Empty 1 jar of pure honey into a saucepan and add the vanilla essence and yellow colouring, then put over a medium heat to boiling point and then turn off. When you stir the mixture it should be very thin.
  • Deep fry your rghaif squares in preheated hot oil before until very light brown in colour before dipping into the heated honey mixture.
  • Make sure the honey gets to cover the entire square, side and corner
    then place in a drainer or a suitable container.
  • When you have repeated this process and completed your batch of honey rghaif, sprinkle with your desired nuts or in this case roasted sesame seeds and place in a presentable dish

Source: https://ahlanwasahlan.co.uk/rghaif-m3aslin/

Trinis and the 750ml Honey Bottle

It is one of the things that seems to be unique to us. Purchasing large bottle of honey for the home. But why? Why do we need such a large bottle at once? We did some research and came up with a few sweet theories.

honey trinidad
  1. Availability of bottles. Many of the seasoned beekeepers will tell you there was a time when buying new bottles wasn’t an option. 40 years ago most beekeepers would collect the rum bottles from bars, sanitize them and reuse. Today, we have better packaging options and can buy new bottles when needed.
  2. Tradition. We have gotten used to it. If we were to look at our ‘honey culture’ it is our preferred size (even if it takes us a year to finish).
  3. Scarcity. Our primary production season is from January to June which means for the second half of the year honey can be more difficult to find. However, production can also vary within the dry season (like the non-existent dry season of 2018)
honey

Whatever your preference pure honey doesn’t spoil so you can hold on to it for as long as you need to.


Bees and Pollinators

Protecting our Species – World Earth Day 2019

International Mother Earth Day is celebrated on the 22nd of April each year to remind each of us that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance. Because of our love for bees, this year’s theme, protecting our species is very important to us.

Many times we see the #savethebees and while this is important the #savethepollinators is even more so. As beekeepers we here the stories about the loss of bees due to farmers spaying insecticides on their crops (remember, bees are insects too). But one must imagine if this is happening to the bees what about or other pollinators? our native stingless bees, our butterflies etc.

bees honey butterflies pollinators
butterflies are important pollinators also.
Source: https://caligo.com/trinidad-tobago/group/trinidad-s-birds-butterflies-with-author-robert-gallardo

We suppose the bigger question to this may be, “How does this affect our health?” A good start would be getting to know your farmers. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to buy fruit and vegetables that aren’t perfect. Avoid using chemicals that have fipronil or glyphosate listed as their active ingredient. These can be very harmful to bees. And if you can, grow more of your own food.

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”
— Rachel Carson, 1962

Earth Day Network is asking people to join their Protect our Species campaign. Their goals are to:

  • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
  • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
  • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
  • Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

In commemoration of Mother Earth Day let us know what you are doing in the comments section.

Honey Balls (Struffoli), The Perfect Easter Treat.

Interested in trying something new this Easter? How about honey balls. This desert is and easy one to make and sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Struffoli (English translation honey balls) is an Italian desert traditionally served during Easter. The name struffoli, a traditional festive dessert formed by several small balls of dough, is believed to come from the Greek word stróngylos, meaning ’round in shape’. While Italian honey balls are sometimes made quite simply, without extra flavorings, you can add citrus (lemon, lime or orange) zest to give an additional flavour.

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 2 cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup honey
  • Flour for dusting
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • Colored sprinkles
honey balls
Struffoli (English translation honey balls) is an Italian desert traditionally served during Easter.
Photo Credit: New England Today

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, and the 1 teaspoon sugar until foamy. Sift the our with the baking power and stir into the egg mixture. With your hands, work the mixture into a soft dough. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, On a floured surface, roll each piece into a rope about the width of your index finger and 12 inches long.

Cut the ropes into 1-inch pieces. Toss the pieces with enough our to dust them lightly, and shake off the excess our. In a deep fryer, heat the oil to 375°F. Fry the struffoli a few handfuls at a time, until puffed up and golden brown. Transfer with a slotted spoon to brown paper to drain.

In a large saucepan, combine the honey and the 1/2 cup sugar and heat over low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved; keep warm over low heat. Add the fried balls a few at a time, and turn them with a wooden spoon to coat on all sides.

Transfer the balls to a large plate and mound them into a pyramid or doughnut, shaping it with wet hands. Sprinkle with the colored sprinkles and let stand for 1 to 2 hours. Then just break of pieces with your hands to eat.

Recipie Courtosey: Ciao Italia

Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day

baptist up hill

Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day is an annual public holiday celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago on 30 March. The Baptists came to Trinidad in 1815 with the Merikins, the liberated African slaves who fought for the British in America and were rewarded by being settled as free men in the Company villages in Trinidad.

The name “Shouter” derives from the practice of their religion. They are very vocal in singing, praying and preaching. “Shouter” is seen as a derogatory term and the term “Spiritual” is preferred due to the practice of their religion to “invoke the holy spirit” during their worship.

baptist with bell

Spirit possession by the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues are regarded as spiritual gifts. The moaning sound, called ‘doption’ is utilized during praying and singing. Significant sacred objects used in worship include the hand bell, candles and flowers. Food items such as rice and honey are often also featured on alters.

 

honey and orange
Honey

The holiday commemorates the repeal on 30 March 1951 of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance that prohibited the activities of the Shouter or Spiritual Baptist faith.

Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the world that celebrates a public holiday for the Spiritual Baptist faith. And, although they are not represented in the population censuses, the Spiritual Baptists are estimated to number between 100 to 300 thousand.

Looking to the hills

Honey is a seasonal product. While consumers enjoy honey year round beekeepers within Trinidad and Tobago typically experience their main flow between January and June a.k.a. the dry season. Yet, up until the beginning of March, this year, it was still raining. Two months down and four more to go.

 rain

 

For the season so far, many beekeepers are scratching their heads in confusion, describing this as something they have never seen before. “How can we have so much rain well into the dry season?” Well … this is climate change. And it is very real.

 

The flowering of the pink poui is usually a signal to beekeepers that the season is coming. We look to the hills in anticipation of the bright yellow clusters of the yellow poui to follow. The nectar produced by these trees provides nourishment for vital animals of the Caribbean ecosystem, such as bees and hummingbirds.  The yellow poui can flower any time during the dry season as long as they lose their leaves. After three days, the flowers drop off and the trees start growing leaves. When the rain comes back consistently, between July and December, new leaves will grow again.

yellow poui 3
The yellow poui in bloom

 

For those that are in T&T, when you go about your day if you spot the bold yellow of a poui tree you can be sure there is a beekeeper smiling somewhere. For us, that’s our sure sign to say, “Yes, welcome to the honey flow.”

The 2018 Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Since starting the business that is Tropical Hives I will say that I have grown with it. As a first generation agricultural practitioner the journey has been one of highs and lows. I have an even greater respect for farmers. Their efforts help provide food for our families.

This year, one of our primary goals is to form a deeper relationship with our farmers. Together we can accomplish amazing thing.

muddy boots
1st apiary visit for 2018

2018 marks the start of us documenting our journey authentically and learning from mistakes along the way. Every step forward is a step in the right direction.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton