The Wine Country Online

Musings from Sonoma County's Slow Food Conviviati

Spring 2001


Notes and Quotes from Sonoma County Beekeepers:

An Interview with Hector Alvarez

by Jack Burton

Hector's Apiaries Services
Pollination - Honey - Beeswax - Candles - Pollen
707-579-9416 Santa Rosa

Hector in the spring is busy checking on all his hives. He feels the weight of each hive, judging how much honey the bees still have left from the last season. If a hive seems light, he will feed that hive's bees with honey to give them a good start for the coming months' work.

In early spring, the hives are placed in almond, prune and apple orchards to pollinate the trees in bloom.

By April, they go to the flower garden that will produce the distinctive honeys Hector and his family sell throughout the county. The Healdsburg Farmers Market is a good place to find them Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons throughout the long market season.

April is also the time for splitting the hives, and Hector raises all his own queen bees to regenerate new colonies from healthy, active, seasoned ones.

The health of his bees is foremost on Hector's mind when he plans the seasonal placements of his hives. He only chooses places free of pesticide and chemical spraying.

It is good to know that your honey and bee products are coming from bees happy this spring in their wildflowers, blackberries and star thistle.

Sage and Honey Citrus Syrup

Chef Jack Burton
Gently boil for one minute:
     1 C Sage honey
1/4 C Lemon juice
6 Fresh sage leaves
Remove from the heat and steep.
Strain and use as a condiment with fruit,
cakes, cheeses, breads, what-have-you.



A Note from Spain

Nancy Norton, from Sonoma County, has kindly allowed me to share this wonderfully descriptive excerpt from a letter dated 1/15/01. She now lives and works in Madrid, Spain.

I went back to the local Mercado Hermosilla (traditional market on Calle Hermosilla which is about 8 blocks from mi apartimento) last Saturday. Shopping there is one of the sustaining weekly activities in Madrid that gives me a sense of home when I am out here on the road working. It is like our Healdsburg farmer's market times five or so and is held inside an old brick building with stone floors. They have not only produce, but also jamón & coldcuts, cheese, meats, poultry & eggs, dairy & dry goods, olives & pickles, bread & baked goods, frozen food and the most amazing fresh fish & seafood considering we are in the center of Spain.

Just like in the Burg, what makes shopping at the market such a communal activity is the people who sell there. The olive man is surely decended from a noble family; he passes the ladies a taste of Malagueña, Obregon and Campo Real olives from his ladle rather than kissing their hands, but the effect is the same. The pescadero at the largest fish stand has a wedge of a knife that must be 5 inches wide but he can filet a dover sole with two flicks of the wrist. My regular fruit and veg folks are two brothers and their kids with stands across the aisle from each other; the two teenage kids sell the vegetables and correct my "muy malo español" as they gift me with a bunch of parsley, the unpronounceable parejil. A deluxe chicken and egg stand is right next door where Dad chops the chicken, son takes care of the egg and wrapping duties and Mom sells the home cooked food she makes right there with broiler and oven   whole roasted birds, tortilla español (Spanish egg, potatoe and onion omelet grilled on both sides), grilled red peppers, pisto (Spanish ratatouille), etc.

It is such a wonderfully personal way to get the week's supplies that I have to stop by even when I only need a fresh stock of olives.

Greetings from the Seychelle Islands

A man at work amongst the palms and tourists in the cocoanut economy of La Digue Island.

Photo credit: Terry Rusinow