Sourcing Maine honey should be an easy prospect this fall.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry says the number of licensed beekeepers has almost tripled in the last decade and registered hive counts have jumped from 5,000 to more than 10,000. Beekeepers add that the many dry, warm days and cool, wet nights since early August have been ideal for honey production. State bee inspector Tony Jadczak expects the 2014 harvest to be one of the best in the last 15 years.

“My hives are putting weight on like crazy,” said Phil Gaven, beekeeper and co-owner with his wife, Megan, of The Honey Exchange, a shop in Portland that sells honey and supplies for beekeepers.

That said, this is Maine. “Winter could come tomorrow,” Master Beekeeper Erin Forbes of Overland Apiaries said. “So it’s better to say I am ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the fall honey harvest.”

Forbes added that to be sustainable in the long-term, Maine honey production needs more than one good harvest. “The economics of beekeeping must change so keepers can make a living by just producing honey,” without, she continued, resorting to hiring out their bees often and faraway to pollinate crops. Frequent moves are stressful for bees.

Forbes suggests Mainers use lots of honey and ask their beekeepers lots of questions. Is the honey pasteurized or raw? How is it extracted (minimal heat is the greener option) and filtered (better if the process does not remove pollen)? When was it harvested? Does the beekeeper keep the hives at least two miles away from crops that are sprayed with chemical herbicides, pesticides and insecticides? Does she minimize chemical interventions, such as miticides and antibiotics?


After all that probing comes the sweet payoff. The taste of local honey will vary from one year to the next, depending on what blooms the bees visit. But that’s what makes eating honey so interesting.


Phil Gaven of The Honey Exchange in Portland adapted this recipe from one his mother used to make. He makes it with yellow mustard, but any prepared mustard will work. Serve the chicken over rice.

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds boneless chicken thigh meat, cut into chunks


1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

⅓ cup local Maine honey

¼ cup mustard

¼ cup chicken broth (if needed)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt the butter in an oven-safe heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Toss the chicken with the curry powder and salt.

Add the chicken to the pot, and brown it on the stovetop for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the honey and mustard. Add the chicken broth if the mixture seems dry.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

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