The Health Foodie Ups The Ante For Local Honey Sourcing

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Shelby Moore
Zach Funke holding a jar of what appears to be honey, but is actually an elixir based from chamomile tea given to the bees.
Honey bees are one of nature's best examples of keeping it local. Most bees travel no more than two miles to pollenate, and are even more perfectly content if there's a lemon tree a few yards away. 

The end result? Honey that tastes of lemon zest, which you spread on toast or add to iced tea (Arnold Palmers, watch out) - so subtly sweet and full of flavor that you won't bother to pucker. 

That's the way Zach Funke, who started his company, The Health Foodie, in November 2009, wants to keep it -- local and organic. Currently you can only find him and his honey on Saturdays at the Old Town Farmers Market in Scottsdale (attending markets on other days when he can) -- and he's working on a website so you order honey and his newest kale chip recipes online.

Funke is doing some of the most local honey sourcing in the Valley, too, with a selection of four to five honeys at a time coming from local farms (think: citrus, desert plants, wild mountain flowers).

"If you put you bees in an orange grove, they're not likely to go very far," says Mara DeLuca, Funke's girlfriend and co-worker. "That's why people can claim they have orange blossom honey." 

An additional ten or so varietals of honey Funke sources come from farms in the southwest. Funke finds farms that have formed symbiotic relationships between the bees and the organic crops, where bees help pollenate fields of strawberries, blackberries, avocados, wild flowers, or almonds, boosting crop production and, in return, creating sweet honeys.

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Shelby Moore
Funke doing a beekeeping demonstration on Martin Luther King Day at his apiary just south of Downtown Phoenix (a place where bees are kept).
Funke brings a full flight of honey offerings to the Scottsdale market each Saturday, and will let you taste to your palate's content. It doesn't take a connoisseur to taste what's there, either, since most flavors are much more pronounced than notes in, say, most single-origin coffees or chocolates.

There are subtleties, as well, that Funke can help you catch. For example, a honey could start with a shining, thick, caramel sweetness that hangs on the palate but gives way to a smokey aftertaste. It's fun to hear him talk that way, like some do with wine, beer and coffee. The couple also come well-versed in different ways to use the honey, from mixes to drinks, topping on foods and uses for cooking.

"One of my favorites is a meadowfoam varietal, which bees pollenate in Oregon," says Funke, grinning. "It tastes like vanilla and marshmallows, with a sort of vanishing finish on the palate. It coats your mouth and goes away quickly. Great for desserts."

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Though Funke's attention to sourcing local and regional raw honeys is already unique to the area, he not only wants to keep it that way, but he's starting to bee-keep it that way, as well. 

Only a couple months into amateur beekeeping at his apiary on the southwest corner of Broadway and 18th Street in south Phoenix, Funke, a member of the Beekeepers Association of Central Arizona, suits up in the necessary gear (he's only been stung once) to work on producing a desert honey varietal that will most likely benefit from the orange tree a couple yards away, though more so from his watchful eye.

"It's some of the most urban beekeeping in Phoenix that I know of, with honey that will truly surpass other attempts of locality in the region," says Funke, with any eye to the near future. "I'd like to set up apiaries on other local organic farms, which will help their yields, and I'll be able to make sure the honey is completely unadulterated."

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2 comments
ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

Please remember to treat our bees right - they pollinate ALL of our food.  Large mega-agri corporations are endangering those bees with their manufacture and sales of genetically modified organism ("GMO") seeds of which 90% of the products in our brand name food is tainted.   Please read some of the comments in the attached blog to learn how you can help.

 http://organicbeet.blogspot.com/

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

Why not mention the name of the location of his apiairy?  Tanner Gardens - it's a great community garden that's been going for over 40 years.

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