During a recent visit to my daughter in Hoboken, NJ, who is in her last year at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I found myself with some free time. My wife and daughter were planning a shopping day… could I find something to do? Hmmmm…. I had been wondering; where would one go to find honey in Manhattan?
I had heard of beekeeping in Manhattan by a group of intrepid beekeepers who kept their hives on roof tops. Apparently there are sufficient plants and blossoms in the city to keep the bees busy. Until recently, beekeeping in New York City was an illegal, underground activity. The Health Code, section 161.01 banned keeping animals that are, ”wild, ferocious, fierce, dangerous or naturally inclined to do harm.” A beekeeper could be fined up to $2,000 under the same laws that prevent people from keeping cobras and snapping turtles. Fortunately, as of Feb., 2010, beekeeping was permitted as long as the owners registered and maintained their hives in a responsible manner. For those interested, the New York City Beekeeping Association encourages beekeeping and offers support for new and experienced beekeepers in “Gotham” city.
Where could I possibly get some of this urban honey? I wondered as I walked down Broadway, waving goodbye to my lovely wife and daughter as they departed for their shopping adventure and I began mine.
After a quick visit to a handy Internet ice cream parlor, I had two leads; one was advisory; visit a market, sometimes urban honey is sold in markets in NY, and the other quite specific; a store named Fairway apparently sold honey from New York’s urban beekeepers. After a quick call to my daughter, I learned that while Friday was not a good day for markets, the Union Square market was open! I hopped on a subway and was there in a few minutes.
Union Square Market
The market was well attended and I took my time looking at the art, vegetables and fruit, juices, meats and just plain people watching. Whether I found honey or not, I was going to enjoy myself.
While admiring a basket of grapes, I noticed there were a lot of honey bees buzzing around the fruit! Surely a good omen! They must be from a hive perched on a roof nearby! Bees travel up to three miles foraging for nectar, but with the Hudson one side and the East River on the other, the hive would likely be in Manhattan. Somehow I wasn’t surprised when I took a few more steps and saw a booth selling honey.
I stood and watched for a while, savoring the moment. This was a lot easier than I’d thought it would be! The booth was very busy. There was a steady stream of buyers. I was heartened by the apparent popularity of honey here in the Big Apple. As I approached the booth I was amazed by the number of bees buzzing around the honey display. And I was even more surprised by the lack of concern by every single buyer. I guess the typical New Yorker attitude extends even to bees. “You don’t bother me, I won’t bother you!” In most other parts of the country, at the first sign of a bee, people start jumping up, fanning the air around them frantically, yelling, “Its a Bee, Its a Bee!’
I waited for a quiet moment and wandered closer and introduced myself. It turns out they were from western NY near the Finger Lakes region and they regularly attended this market. Their company was Tremblay Apiaries. Most of the honey was multifloral. I asked what type of flowers and he answered confidently, describing about half a dozen types. While I love all honey, I am particularly interested in monofloral, so I asked if they might have something unusual.
“I’m hoping for bamboo (Japanese Knotweed), we may have some now, but I’m not sure. When we do, we’ll post in on our website.”, he said. I promised to look. I’ve never tried Japanese Knotweed. I thanked him and continued around the market but found no other honey vendors.
Time to try Fairway Market. I double checked the address, 133rd St and 12th Ave. By my reckoning that was pretty much at the top of Manhattan! I hopped on the subway from the station at the SW corner of the square (#4 Lexington) and traveled to the far north stop; Lexington and 125th just before the Bronx. I got off and walked up to 133rd and started walking west, straight though Harlem. I double checked with my daughter via cell. Is Harlem safe to walk through? Better safe than sorry I thought. “Yep, it should be fine during the day,” she advised and she was right. I had a very pleasant walk through the projects. They were clean and well maintained, not like the picture I had in my mind from 30 years before. I can’t say what they were like at night but the day time walk was fine. Nevertheless, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t actually have a map since the grid system of Manhattan normally makes it pretty easy to navigate. But after what seemed like a couple dozen blocks, and a detour around St. Nicholas Park, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake, I was almost clear through to the Hudson River and no 12th Ave and no Fairway Market.
I was looking for a small hole-in-the-wall deli or neighborhood shop so when I finally hit 12th Ave, and found Fairway, I was surprised at the size of it, and the fact that it’s located underneath the Henry Hudson Parkway!
It took me a while to simply find the entrance on the west side, I noticed several aisles were actually outside, covered by the parkway. With parking and warehousing, the store took up over two blocks. Inside was a maze of aisles, I asked for directions and found the mother load… the largest variety of honey I’ve seen for sale in one place in the USA!
There were honeys from around the world, from Argentina, Africa, Italy, France, Spain (and that was just on the top shelf), Australia, Germany, and Greece, and a nice selection from the United States. These included wildflower honey, flavored honey and monofloral honey. Also, artisanal honey, chunk honey and organic honey. Varietals of honey I saw,
|United States Honeys*|
Suffice to say, this was an impressive collection of honey. I bought some Wild Black Sage honey and a bottle of the Fair Trade African blossom honey.
The store was very busy, I loved that place. It was a warren of aisles with everything packed in tightly. The Friday afternoon I was there was moderately busy but check out was quick and the cashier was a typical New Yorker, friendly, in-your-face, and straightforward. Her parting quip, “Thanks honey, come back soon!”
As I happily rode back on the subway, I pondered the sweet irony of my adventure. I had found honey from all over the world and from many states, but nothing from the elusive beekeepers of Manhattan!
| Location of the Fairway Market:|
2328 12th Ave. N.Y., N.Y. 10027
Take the #1 Broadway 7th Ave Local Subway north and get off at 125th. A short walk west to 12th Ave. and one block north.
| Location of Union Sq. Market|
In the Union Square (14th Street/Broadway)