Every backyard gardener knows the vast difference between a freshly picked tomato and what's available in the supermarket. I recently learned that the difference in honey can be just as dramatic.
Two weeks ago, we bought a jar of Aquidneck Honey at the "White Church" farmers' market in Barrington, which is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. This is wonderful stuff. It smells like a bouquet of wildflowers, and the flavor is so vivid that you can almost taste the individual flowers.
I admire people who are passionate about what they do so, even before I knew how good the honey was, I enjoyed chatting with "bee man" Jeff Mello.
"My hands are in this honey every step of the way," he said.
Mello builds his own hives -- over 800 of them -- located all over Rhode Island. Aquidneck Honey is based in Middletown.
"Every wildflower in Rhode Island goes into this honey," he said.
To allergy sufferers, this is good news. Since this honey is unfiltered and unheated, it still contains pollen. A spoonful or two a day may help build up an immunity and relieve seasonal allergies.
Other health benefits of honey are listed on the website, but Mello seems equally concerned about the well-being of his bees. Unlike many beekeepers, he does not move the hives around so that the bees can pollinate one crop after another.
"That's not good for the bees," he said.
Mello sells honey through several small local grocery stores as well as farmers' markets. You can get Aquidneck Honey in a jar, a hunk of honeycomb, or in plastic sipping tubes. Local mazurs — people who make mead, a honey-based wine that's arguably the earliest alcoholic beverage — buy his honey in five-gallon buckets.
"The important thing about honey," Mello said, "is to know your beekeeper."
When you think about it, there's good advice for anything we eat. Eating locally might not always be practical or even possible, but Aquidneck Honey is a very good start.