Honey from the Wroclaw Christmas Market in Poland

Christmas can make it easy to forget the grey cold days of winter. But for many of us in the U.S. Christmas is losing its traditional meaning as it becomes more of a shopping event combined with neighborhood competitions of lights and decorations.

Not so for the people of Poland, where Christmas continues to have a strong traditional and religious significance. Buoyed by a fervent Roman Catholic faith and passionately held traditions, Christmas continues to be a magical time of year for young and old alike in this central European country.

Christmas Market Wroclaw

Even the most cynical scrooge would be charmed by the spirit in which the people of Poland celebrate Christmas. Or delighted by the festive atmosphere as in the case of my friend, Matt, who was visiting Wroclaw Poland to negotiate a new business venture when he got serendipitously side-tracked by a visit to Old Town and the Christmas Market (Jarmark Bożonarodzeniowy).

Honeydew, Rape Seed, Acacia Honey from Poland

Matt had time to investigate local honey which is sold throughout Wroclaw, and as it turns out, at the Christmas Market. After surmounting the language barrier with exchanges of pointing, gestures and smiles with the friendly stall keepers, he decided on the three honeys shown. The Honeydew honey on the left, is produced from conifers and tends to be lighter colored at the end of the season. This one was not too sweet, fairly thick, with a savory flavor yet much milder than darker honeydews. The Acacia honey was sweeter and lighter with hints of vanilla, it would go well with ice cream. The Rape Seed honey on the far right was finely crystallized with a solid buttery feel that melted quickly and felt cool to the mouth. It was a medium sweet honey with an old cheese aroma that persisted… perhaps my favorite. Rape seed is grown for the oil which is also known as Canola oil.

Although one of the leading producers of honey in Europe, Poland has a relatively low per capita consumption of honey of about 1 lb per year, compared to the U.S at 1.3 pounds and Germany at 2.5 lbs. Most of its honey is exported to Western Europe where it is known for it high quality.

Poland is considered a strong honey-producing nation and has been known for honey since medieval times when beekeeping was a notable profession and stealing bees or beehives was punishable by death! Common varieties of honey in addition to multifloral are; acacia, rape seed, linden, buckwheat, dandelion and heather varieties. Some rarer varieties include raspberry and goldenrod honey.

The Wroclaw Christmas Market runs from the end of November to Dec 23 and is located in the heart of Wroclaw, Poland on Świdnicka Street. But of course, honey may be purchased all year long from many bee product specialty shops and farmers’ markets round the city.

References and further reading

Food From Poland Magazine

Lyson Beekeeping Products (Polish)
Wroclaw, Poland – Wikipedia

Harvesting Honey at the Fitzpatrick Farm - North Central Illinois

Fresh Thistle - Golden Rod Honey - From Fitzpatrick Farm, IL

Late in October, we were looking for a likely beekeeper to visit within an hour or two drive of home. Hopefully we would have a nice drive, visit the countryside and buy some fresh honey. I’d called Dan Fitzpatrick a few weeks earlier but wasn’t able to arrange anything at that time. This time Dan confirmed it would be fine to drop by. He couldn’t say exactly where he might be, but he would be close and we should be able to hook up.

Fields of Wind Generators

We drove west on Hwy 30 through Shabbona, passed by several ‘fields’ of giant wind generators, and were soon driving into his farm on a county road near Earlville. Surrounded by planted fields, wild fields and forest, it was a lovely day, and his wife, young son and Dad were outside enjoying it. Dan is part of a line of multi-generational farmers who trace their family roots back to his great-great-great grandfather, David Fitzpatrick, who originally settled the property in the 1800’s. The story of the Fitzpatick family runs alongside the farmland he still lives on.

Dan Inspecting A Beehive

We weren’t sure how big his beekeeping operation would be, and while it turned out to be more of a hobby than a business, Dan never has any problems finding willing customers for his honey. He had about eight hives positioned around his property. He would have more, but I think he was too busy.

When he isn’t tending the farm, Dan teaches environmental science at the local public school, as well as intro to agriculture, agricultural science, biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy. Not one to sit still, mentally or physically, Dan’s far-reaching interests are centered around nature and the outdoors. As a kid, his dream was to become a, “farmer scientist”—he is well on his way to accomplishing his goal.

While we were there, we tried wild persimmons, home-made cheese, inspected his apple tree grafting experiments, identified wild edible plants, wild mustard (Brassica species) and lambs quarters (Chenopodium album), which makes a seed similar to quinoa, and watched while he erected a deer platform on the edge of his wood land. All this and an excellent honey production tour.

Inspecting the hive for the late summer harvest and ensuring the bees have enough honey to last them through the winter.

Dan doesn’t use a backing as a foundation for the honey comb. Choosing a more natural and simpler method, he just embeds a line of popsicle sticks at the top of the frame for the bees to attach the honey comb. To harvest, simply crush the honey comb by hand into a sieve. In this case, through a single layer of cheese cloth for the ultimate in raw honey production.

After about a half hour of draining through the cheese cloth at the top of the bucket, open the gate, and fill our jar with a quart of incredible raw honey!

Senators Urge FDA to Adopt Honey Identity Standard

As the latest champions in the ongoing action that began in 2006, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hoeven called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a national standard of identity for honey. New York Senators Call for National Honey Identity Standard

The American Beekeeping Federation, along with the American Honey Producers, National Honey Packers and Dealers, Sioux Honey, and Western States Honey Packers and Dealers associations has been petitioning the FDA to adopt a proposed honey identity standard similar to the Codex Standard for Honey (adopted by the United Nations food and agriculture organization and the World Health Organization), since 2006, but the FDA has not acted. Florida and California have adopted a standard and Wisconsin is in the final stages of adopting a voluntary honey certification standard.

Without a standard of identity, honey that we buy may or may not be made entirely from honey. This will protect consumers and beekeepers alike by stopping deceptive manufacturing processes of other countries as well as raising the bar for our own production, increasing the quality and therefore the value of this important natural food.

Sale of honey and Wisconsin certified honey; rules, prohibitions. Statute: 100.187 (Updated here 1-30-2013)
Standard of Identity as adopted in Florida (Updated here 1-30-2013)
Act to amend Section 29413 of the California Food and Agricultural Code, relating to honey.
PDF New York Standard of Identity for Honey Proposal American Beekeeping Federation Press Release
Proposed Codex Standard of Honey Submitted by the ABF