A Tale of Two Honeys: Mint Hill and Marshall's Farm
I've been going to the Alemany market about every weekend for the past year as part of a project, and finally got around to buying a little jar of honey at the Mint Hill Apiary stand a few months back.
Growing up in rural Connecticut, my uncle had his own hives and produced honey for us every year, so I never tasted commercial honey until I was in college, my uncle died, and our supplies ran out.
The honey he made was complex: rich, aggressively grassy, and decidedly seasonal. The spring honey looked and tasted different than summer honey; '92 had a different flavor than '98. After his, every honey I tried was disappointing. One note, sickly sweet, like boiled down Pepsi.
Mint Hill (summer '06) was a shocker: the punchy, grassy top note, which settled into an herby flavor, tasted quite like my uncle's honey. Mint Hill honey is made from hives located in the Castro district of San Francisco.
It was so good I ran out of honey in about three months. I needed some for a recipe and couldn't wait for market day, so I scoured the shelves at Rainbow and bought Marshall's Farm Honey, which is made in American Canyon.
I tried the "S.F. Bay Beekeeper's Blend," a mixture of honeys from around the bay. Marshall's has a deep, smooth flavor, much subtler than the Mint Hill variety I tried.
I liked them both, but preferred the singular Mint Hill, which probably was more distinctive just by nature of being produced from hives in a more limited area.
Haven't you ever tasted Marshall's Farm honeys at the farmers' market? They have a huge range of honeys with widely varying flavors, from subtle to pungent. They have single-pollen honeys from various kinds of plants, and also single location honeys (the one from the gardens at the CIA is one of my favorites), as well as their regional blends. Last time I went up to Napa I stopped at their place on the way back -- the owner took me into his shed and let me taste all I wanted, and then pulled out some more still on the comb.
Another local honey producer I see at the farmers' market is Snyder's from La Honda. I bought some of their tanbark honey a while back. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31002...
re: Ruth Lafler
Really, you should take advantage of Marshalls tasting options at the farmers markets. Ferry Plaza is the best option because usually one of the Marshall's are there. I was really disappointed at Grand Lake recently when the person manning the stand knew nothing.
Sue (?) Marshall is really good about telling you what is new that week. The Marshall honey at the grocery markets is fine but doesn't match the specialized honey at the farmers markets that can't even be ordered online.
They actually have some hives around the Castro too.
One of my favorite gifts to give is Marshall's honey in various textures and colors. The Wild, wild west is the darkest and stronger flavor. The orange blossom the lightest ... but even that depends on WHERE they get the orange blossom honey from. They have different hives in different locations and the earlier spring orange blossom is decidedly different from the late season orange blossom.
My middle color honey is always the pumpkin blossom which is one of my top ten tastes of any food ever. It has a unique, wonderful taste and I can (and have) just eaten it straight.
Thanks for the tip about Mint Hill. I've tried two honey vendors at Alamany. The big honey vendor and the little one near one of the entrances.