Drizzled on porridge, paired with goats cheese or even used as the star ingredient in a homemade face-mask, honey lovers are well versed on the many virtues of this multitasking golden wonder. However, as you devour your morning slice of honey-slathered toast did you ever stop to think that the very flowers in your kitchen window box could be the source of all that sticky, sweet goodness? The Dublin Honey Project is creating a buzz in the city with their mission to work with native Irish Black Bees to harvest raw honey from each of Dublin postcodes. Set up by Architect Gearóid Carvill and photographer Kieran Harnett, we talked to Gearóid about the challenges and benefits of beekeeping in the city, producing honey locally and the range of flavours available from our capital’s city streets and suburbs.
How and when did you and Kieran become interested in beekeeping?
We both come from a keen interest in home grown food, and we’re both poultry fanciers. My Grandfather and his son, my uncle were beekeepers so I must have it in the blood. Kieran had an interest in the health benefits and this brought him in contact with a local beekeeper and subsequently the County Dublin Beekeepers Association, who do a great course every spring, which we’ve both completed and are both active members of the Association.
How easy is it to keep bees in the city?
It’s not for the uninitiated. A good beekeeper can manage both the temperament of the hive and control the swarming impulses of the hive. You need some training and experience to manage bees. At some level Beekeeping is a like of farming and just like any farming it takes time, patience, investment.
Is there a difference between honey produced in the city and the countryside?
Well even in the city in a relatively small geographical area we’ve produced honeys with a variety of flavours. Cities can offer a more diverse range of pollen for bees, in addition to being ‘heat islands’, which allows a greater variety of nectars to be harvested by the bees. We also contend that cities are cleaner in terms of chemicals in the environment as we don’t extensively use chemicals in the same environment as our pets and children play.
What flavours can you get from honey produced in Dublin?
Well in Dublin City and County in terms of ‘single origin’ honey you could have Heather, Rapeseed, Buckwheat, Apple and Lime, and that’s just for starters.
Is it popular to practice beekeeping in other cities around the world?
There’s some great examples of city beekeepers in ‘HK Honey’ in Hong Kong, Steve Benbow, and many others, in London and it has recently (2010) been decriminalised in New York, so there’d be a few rooftop and backyard beekeepers over there.
Your aim is to have locally produced honey from each of Dublin’s postcodes, why is that important to you?
The idea is about engaging people with the idea of local food production. Dublin’s postcode subdivisions gave us a structure and a strategy to work with.
You started with an apiary in Drumcondra, D9. What other postcodes have you set up hives in?
This season we have Honey from Dublin 1, 4 and 14 as well as County Dublin Heather Honey.
You have developed partnerships with Belvedere college and UCD, what do these collaborations bring to the Dublin Honey Project?
The best and only chance the project has in developing and evolving is through these collaborations and we think that there is great potential for other institutions and businesses to be part of this project. There are loads of potential sites around the city that could be used – Dublin has so much potential!
You have already have a number of retail relationships, who do you work with?
The Irish Design Shop, Urban Café, Indigo and Cloth and the Fumbally were all early adopters and we hope to continue to work with these guys and if stock allows supply others.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
In addition to trying to expand the project in terms of other partners/collaborators and adding products we recently gave our first class ‘An Introduction to Bee Keeping with Honey Tasting’ at the Fumbally Stables. We’ve previously given talks at Pecha Kucha, Airfield, UCD and done informal presentations in the Trinity Science Gallery but this involved pulling all those strands together with some honey tasting of a collection of honeys from around the Mediterranean. We will also be at the Christmas on Square Market in the Irish Architectural Archive on the 28th of November. That will be it for our stock and for 2016!
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.