at Hoosier Honey
It was a perfectly lovely late-summer day as my kitchen companion and I strolled through the streets of downtown Nashville, shop-hopping and window shopping.
Handcrafted tables and chairs, fine handmade quilts, silver, turquoise and amber jewelry, each grabbed the eye in turn. From up in pioneer village, the sound of the village smithy, and from the Joybell Theater wafted the sounds of inspirational handbells.
There were women hand-making fudge in big plate glass windows, free samples of caramel corn on the sidewalk, and wind chimes on a large, shady porch.
“Yes, my sweet?” I murmured to my dearly intended.
“No, honey,” she replied, pointing out the sign directing us to the Hoosier Honey Gift Shop, on the upper level of the F.C. Tucker building at 44 North Van Buren Street.
We made our way up the wide stairway to the second floor gallery and into what has to be the sweetest—and healthiest—shop in town, a shop devoted entirely to the output of the industrious and indispensable little insect known as the honey bee.
The little store is positively crammed with every kind of honey and natural sweetening product imaginable, from honey in the comb to beeswax candles. You can even get honey flavored ice cream made by the Brown County Ice Cream and Bakery Company. The shop attendant is cheerfully evangelical about the benefits and beauty of this all-natural sweet vicuous fluid.
There is honey in jars, honey in combs, and honey with comb in jars. There is even a diabetic honey which has been shown to not unduly affect the delicate balance of the body’s sugar-regulating mechanisms.
There is Indiana Sorghum and Maple Syrup, along with a complete line of Dillman Farms products—not just the apple butter, which has become something of an icon in Nashville—but Pumpkin Butter which tastes just like a freshly-made pumpkin pie.
I know this because there is a little tasting table with small plastic spoons and various sampling jars to choose from, and for my first little spoonful of heaven I went straight for the honey.
It is sweet and smooth. One doesn’t so much eat it as it just sort of merges with the body. One doesn’t have to be told that it is natural and locally produced—it just feels right.
Next was a delicious “cream honey” that was smooth and spreadable, made by co-owner Becky Vadas, who also creates honey-based all-natural skin care products for Hoosier Honey.
I can imagine the delight of this cream honey on toast or an English muffin, and I am informed that the cinnamon variety is “…delicious in hot tea.”
The cream honey doesn’t need to be refrigerated and will never crystallize, and so has a long shelf life.
Becky and her husband Dave maintain about 150 hives in various locations in Indiana where the industrious little bees create various kinds of honey based upon what sort of pollen they are able to collect.
Next on the tasting table is Pure Indiana Sorghum and Maple Syrup produced by the Amish in southern Indiana.
I pop the little spoon into my mouth, and instantly a rush of memory overwhelms me— my father, who grew up in Brown County in the “Good Old Days,” always retained his fondness for sorghum. I can remember him insisting that we try it as children.
It was delicious.
Sorghum can be used in cookies as a substitute for molasses in recipes like your mother’s “black strap molasses” cookies.
As for the pure Indiana Maple Syrup, a sample spoon was hardly enough. It created an immediate and intense longing for a short stack of flapjacks drizzled with melted butter.
It is hard to imagine any store-bought maple syrup tasting quite that good.
Then there are the various honey-based treats—honey hard candy with honey in the center, honey gummys, honey suckers, even honey mints. And for the kids, little straws filled with honey called “honey stix.”
Beyond the sweet-tasting products, there is pure Indiana beeswax.
According to the Hoosier Honey folks, beeswax candles do not drip and last twice as long as a regular candle. The beeswax bars are used as a lubricant—stuck zippers, skis, sleds, violin strings, needles, for screws, and for thread.
Also available are handmade beeswax skin care products. There is lip balm for chapped lips which also heals cold sores and fever blisters. The skin cream is good for dry skin, does not wash off easily, and is also good for psoriasis.
Most interesting of all are the jars of honey bee pollen.
Honey bee pollen is the male element of the flowers and is necessary for the fertilization of the plant and continuation of the species. The honeybee is directly responsible for over 80% of all pollenization.
You eat it, (“It has a nutty flavor.”) up to about one or two tablespoons per day, and it is said to provide natural weight control, skin restorative powers, and improved circulation and “…gives you all essential nutrients, all vitamins, all minerals, enzymes and trace minerals needed for glowing good health and vitality….”
I purchased a comb of pure honey for my sweetie, and the kind clerk threw in a few honey candies for “lagniappe.”
We went on about our way, cruising the shops hand-in-hand on a fine sunny day, sucking on our honey flavored candies and laying plans to become much more healthy over the next six months.
And I was profoundly satisfied.