Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Buzzin' of the Bees in the Linden Trees

There's a heavy, somewhat astringent perfume that wafts through Portland's neighborhoods in early summer. Emanating from the cascading yellow-white blossoms of linden trees planted along the city's sidewalks, the aroma is apparently akin to crack for honeybees.

Walking beneath one when it's in bloom is to experience what it must be like to live inside a beehive, with a constant, rhythmic thrumming of wings as the bees go from blossom to blossom collecting the copious amounts of nectar the flowers produce. One tree can have the equivalent of a couple of acres of flowers, enough for a backyard hive to produce a particular type of honey known as basswood.

Highly prized, basswood honey is light-colored but with a distinctly strong flavor that is, not surprisingly, reminiscent of those strongly scented linden flowers. It's moderately sweet, has a very slight bitterness and a taste that lingers on the tongue.

How do I know all this? Well, a neighbor recently harvested about 50 pounds of honey from his hives and, as he'd hoped, some of it was the basswood honey from a nearby linden. It only took a moderate amount of begging, but the other day we were presented with a small jar of golden treasure. This morning we opened the jar, drizzled the honey on the sourdough biscuits Dave made and found out what all the fuss was about.

This is just to say that if you have a wide parking strip of, oh, six to eight feet wide with no overhead wires, the city of Portland okays the linden as a street tree. And after tasting this honey, I'd highly recommend planting one of these babies and getting into beekeeping.

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