Honey and Apple Tradition for Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is coming up at the end of September. Traditionally, various symbolic foods are eaten over the two day holiday. One of these is apple slices dipped in honey – symbolizing hope for a sweet year ahead.

I’ve read many theories why honey and apples are used – I suspect the true reasons have been lost in the mists of time. It is an important reminder that honey was really the only availibale sweetener for thousends of years. It was available long before sugar and maple syrup was discovered. This is one of the reasons that honey was very highly valued.

Many people also have honey cake as part of their celebrations. There are numerous recipies available, but one of my favourites is this: James Martin’s Honey Cake

We have been supplying honey to our local Jewish community for many years, and are always so pleased when people choose our honey as part of their celebrations.

If you would like to buy some of our honey, which is all produced in North London, it is avaliable from our website shop here

Apples and honey

Introducing our All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap Range

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In our family we have several people with very sensitive skin. Finding soap that doesn’t irritate their skin has been a challenge for years. We also aren’t keen on heavily scented products, especially the sort where the aroma sticks around for far too long.

We decided to try making our own, completely unscented soap, using all natural ingredients. The result was wonderful – a soap that lathers beautifully and cleans well.

We loved it so much, that we thought that you might enjoy it too. We’ve created three types of soap – all use beeswax from our own hives. The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap and The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap with Oats also use our own honey. We’ve avoided using any palm oil and any added scents.

In line with our minimal packaging ethos, we’ve avoided packing them in plastic and just use a simple paper label.

They are available to buy from our website shop here.

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Planning your garden to best help bees

It’s the time of the year when all the seed and bedding plant catalogues arrive through our letter boxes. It’s so easy to get carried away by all the bright colours and glossy pages!

Unfortunately many bedding plants have very little or any nutritional value for bees. They have been bred to appeal to our senses and not to feed pollinators. Over the years of intensive breeding, most of these annual bedding plants are now sterile and can’t produce any pollen or nectar. They are raised in vast factories of hydroponics and are so far removed from nature. They are completely useless to bees.

If we are serious about helping bees to thrive, it is vitally important that we pick our plants wisely. Don’t forget, that without pollinators our diets will be severely restricted.

Plants to avoid

If you would like to find out more about the best plants to pick to benefit bees, then take a look at our book – 80 Flowers for Bees. Available here.

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Introducing our new project #2022inbloom

If you follow us on instagram, you may have seen that this year we have partnered up with Shilpa Agashe for a fun project for the year.

The idea is that we post pictures of the flowers that we see while we go about our business each day. Shilpa is a wonderful artist and she often draws what she sees. We are focusing on flowers that are particularly beneficial for bees.

We’d love it if you join in and post what you see. We’ve already had people joining in from some very far flung places – Singapore, Switzerland and Scotland. It’s been very interesting to see what’s flowering where.

If you’d like to take a look, then search for #2022inbloom. Our instagram is here: www.instagram.com/highgatehoney and Shilpa is here: www.instagram.com/agasheshilpa

If you would like to take part, then please use #2022inbloom and tag us, so we don’t miss your post. (@highgatehoney and @agasheshilpa).

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f:Entrepreneur #ialso100

Pollen blanket Print

This year has started with the very exciting news that Helen was named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign 2022.

Delivered by Small Business Britain – the leading champion of small businesses in the UK –  f:Entrepreneur was launched in 2017 to highlight the stories of amazing female business owners and help provide inspiration and role models across the wider small business community. Now in its fifth year, the campaign offers a host of events and training and networking opportunities to boost skills, capability and confidence.

Helen was chosen because of her work at Highgate Honey, her engineering expertise on cantilever stone stairs, championing UK honey in her honey tasting workshops and her book “80 Flowers for Bees”.

Both f:Entrepreneur and Small Business Britain were founded by Michelle Ovens CBE, who is also the director of Small Business Saturday UK.

“Congratulations to Helen Rogers of Highgate Honey,  and all of the brilliant female entrepreneurs featured in this year’s #ialso100,” said Michelle Ovens. 

“It is so vital that we recognize and celebrate the phenomenal contribution that women running businesses are making across the UK, and the far-reaching, positive impact they are having, not just on the economy, but on wider communities too. The last few years have been hugely challenging for small businesses, yet despite this female entrepreneurship continues to grow and flourish in the UK, and is very much at the heart of the UK’s recovery.”

To see the full line-up of the 100 amazing women featured in this year’s f:entrepreneur #ialso100 campaign  visit https://f-entrepreneur.com/ialso-100-2022/

Favourite Books of the Year

I love to read and I get through a lot of books of all different genres. It’s fun to look back over the year and reflect on which books have stayed with me. Interestingly, some that I didn’t particularly rate while I was reading them keep popping back into my head and have changed how I think about things.

If I had to pick my favourite I’d have a tough choice between these two:

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Both are very nature based, both are written by women who are scientists and both are beautifully written – weaving their lives and the work that they do together. I devoured each of them in a few days. They have both impacted the way that I look at the world and constantly pop into my head. I can’t recommend them enough!

This book was interesting too – it is a day by day diary of the seasons in the UK over 2020. It compares the changes in nature to the 72 mini seasons defined in Japanese culture. The author is a bird watcher, so it focuses mainly on which birds are around and what is in flower. Beekeepers tend to pay close attention to weather patterns as they affect our bees – so this was interesting to me. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it over a year, reading the relevant chapter to match the actual date.

Very occasionally I read a novel that is so completely unlike any other novel that I’ve ever read. Piranesi is one of those books. It is dark, other wordly and extraordinary.

Somehow I only recently discovered that Tove Jansson, the writer of the Moomin books, also wrote for grown ups. I’ve been savouring them ever since! This is a short novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter, spending the summer on a remote island off Finland. It is absolutely delightful, witty and wise.

I’d love to know which books you have enjoyed this year – leave a comment below!

Transparency time – if you end up buying using the links in this post I will receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Pollen Blanket

About a year ago I had an idea to make a crochet blanket based on the colours of pollen that I see stored in the honeycombs of our hives. Honey bees collect pollen to feed to their young – it is full of protein and forms the base of “bee bread” which is essential food for bee larvae.

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Different flowers produce different colours of pollen. When you look inside a hive you can see which flowers the bees have been foraging on. They appear to store different types of pollen into different cells of the comb. This creates a beautiful stained glass effect.

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This has been a stop-start project. When it was hot in the summer it got abandoned for several months – it was just too uncomfortable sitting with most of a blanket over my lap. The recent colder temperatures have meant perfect blanket making weather, and I’m glad to finish it at last.

Pollen blanket

Free Webinar 20th May

To celebrate World Bee Day next Thursday, I’m partnering with Capital Gardens to bring you a free webinar called “Bees in the Garden – Planting Flowers to Attract Bees”. Colin Campbell-Preston and I will be talking about all things bee and will be giving lots of tips on selecting the best plants to provide quality forage and habitat for bees.

It will be taking place on 20th May at 12:30pm. It is completely free, but you do need to register. Sign up here

Lots of the plants that we will discuss are covered in my book “80 Flowers for Bees” – available to buy here

Edit: if you missed the live webinar, you can watch the recording here.

Honey Tasting Workshop from the comfort of your own home

Over the past few months we’ve been running some honey tasting workshops – it all started last year, when a friend asked me if I would run a session to do with bees over Zoom for her team – they were all fed up with working remotely and wanted something fun and interesting to do together. Since then we’ve run lots of sessions – it has been so much fun meeting new people and sharing the wonders of pure honey. We pick high quality honey for our samples – we are keen to demonstrate the wonderful diversity in colours and flavours of pure honey.

Honey Tasting

Recently I’ve been getting quite a few questions about how it all works, so I thought that it might be helpful to put something here for everyone to see.

We can either run a private session for groups of up to 20, or you can join one of our regular workshops (available to book from our on-line shop here).

A week before the workshop, we will be pack a box with your honey samples, spoons, tasting notes, sensory wheel, honey colour chart, pollen chart and some of our favourite honey based recipes. We will then post them to you, leaving plenty of time for them to arrive.

Honey Tasting

On the day, we all join the Zoom call. Helen, our beekeeper, will talk through the history of human’s relationship with honey, how honey bees collect nectar and make honey, how it is extracted, how to avoid buying poor quality honey and single origin honey. We then taste the samples, learn where that honey is from, why that honey is unique and analyse the smells and tastes.

Honey Tasting

At the moment we are using all pure honey from the UK. The sessions lasts around 1.5 -2 hours. The sample pots are large enough for 2 people from each household to take part. (You only pay for one place).

Do come and join us, or get in touch if you’d like to arrange a private tasting.

How to Easily Change a Lawn into Flower Garden

In front of our house we had a small, north facing lawn. We never used it and it was a chore to keep it mown. I had always thought that because it is north facing, it would get a relatively small amount of direct sun, which would limit what can be grown there. However, being at home more than usual over the past year gave me time to watch how much direct sun it actually gets. I was surprised that from March until October it has around 6 hours each day, which is plenty for many flowering plants that bees like to forage on.

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I didn’t like the idea of digging up all the grass, or using a herbicide to kill it off, so we decided to use the “No Dig” method advocated by Charles Dowding. We’ve used this method successfully in the past to create a vegetable patch in our back garden. It’s super simple – you lay down a layer of carboard over the entire area, then cover it with compost. You can then sow or plant directly into the compost. Over time the card will rot and the grass will die. I waited until our recycling collection day and collected all the card in the neighbourhood! There was more than enough to make a good layer.

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I then added a layer of compost. Some I bought and some we’ve made. We compost nearly all our kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, so we had quite a good stash. Here it is layered up.

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The plan is to sow a lot of flower seeds in March, which I’m hoping will then bloom right through until around November. To add some earlier flowers, I poked holes through the card board and planted lots of spring bulbs. They are now poking their noses through the compost layer, so it shouldn’t be too long before there is some colour in the muddy patch!

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In the autumn I also sowed some biennials, such as Foxgloves and Sweet Williams, which are overwintering in our tiny greenhouse – I’ll plant them out once the risk of frosts have past.

The hope is that we will have a feast for bees and other pollinators from spring until late autumn – much better than a boring lawn!