The hayfever season now looms – the Daily Mail is already shrieking – which means two months of sniffling and hiding indoors on breezy days and cursing at the BBC Pollen Count. Every year I try different remedies – acupuncture, antihistamines, ionisers, anything. I’ve also heard that eating the honey made locally can ‘immunise’ you against local histamines, although there’s not (yet?) any scientific evidence to back it up.
The most well-known local variety is Hackney Honey, which was photographed by Gabrielle Motola and featured in The Guardian. I’ve found it in H Tidman Butchers on Broadway Market, but it’s best to get in quick as honey is harvested throughout summer so tends to sell out by the time you need it the following spring.
Space Studios on Mare Street produce honey on their rooftop, and Hackney City Farm has hives. Or you can buy London honey through Urban Bees, although their 2010 stocks have sold out and the 2011 harvest won’t be available until June. And it’s also sold at quaint British food deli A Gold in Spitalfields.
Alternatively, if you have a garden, roof terrace or allotment, you can produce your own. Bees are thought to thrive in urban environments because there is such a rich variety of flowers in private gardens and parks as well as railway sidings and unused scraps of land. It’s not cheap – the going rate this summer for a swarm of bees is £150, plus you need to buy a hive and bee suit, but from one hive you can harvest around 40lb of honey. London honey is described as ‘multi-floral’ and light in early summer, becoming darker and richer towards the end of the season.
To find out more or book a course, visit Urban Bees in Kings Cross. Set up by Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin (author of A World Without Bees) , they have established 20 new hives on rooftops and in community gardens and allotments across London. Urban Bees is a social enterprise sponsored by the ethically minded Cooperative Bank, who began as Rochdale Pioneers and established the first successful co-operative in 1844. Having already invested £500,000 into Plan Bee, their own bee protection and education programme, funding from The Co-operative helped Urban Bees get started.