My guest is Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw, a leading brand of raw varietal honeys. Zeke gained an appreciation for both home-grown produce and for the rich heritage of artisanal food production on his family’s farm in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Zeke turned this passion into a full-time pursuit of the culinary arts at the University of Montana’s School of Food Management & Culinary Arts in 1989. After earning his degree, he relocated to France to continue his education at the Hotel School of Grenoble and began working under the direction of acclaimed chef, Alain Ducasse. In 1995, following two years in France working with, and learning from, accomplished international chefs, Zeke moved back to the United States where he became a buyer for Dean & Deluca in New York City. Always in pursuit of fine edibles for the upscale food, wine and kitchenware retailer, Zeke discovered the company that has become Bee Raw Honey. Today, Zeke partners with family owned beekeepers around the country to bring high-quality, raw, unadulterated honey to the American table. Zeke also actively promotes the importance of American family-owned apiaries and works to educate the public about the importance of beekeeping and its value in agriculture, so we’ll be talking about toxic pesticides affecting the bees, colony collapse disorder, toxic chemicals you shouldn’t be using in your garden, how to help save the bees, and the process of making and benefits of raw honey as well as ways to enjoy honey. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/bee-raw
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Honey, Health & Honeybees
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Zeke Freeman
Date of Broadcast: June 19, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world even though there are toxic chemicals around us in consumer products and in the environment. Sometimes, it seems like every time we listen to the radio, or read the newspaper, or watch TV, they’re talking about yet another toxic chemical that is dangerous to our health. But there are many things we can do to protect our health and the environment from toxic chemical exposures. We can remove them from our homes, remove them from our bodies, and in general, do things that support our own health instead of having our health be damaged by toxic chemicals.
Today is Wednesday, June 19th 2013. Yesterday was my birthday. So today is the first day of the next year of my life. And I’m looking forward to having a great year.
Today, my guest is Zeke Freeman. He’s the CEO of Bee Raw, a company that sells varietal honeys—raw varietal honeys, I should say. And they also have a great interest in saving the bees. And you probably heard that our honeybees are—actually, all bees are in danger of extinction. We’re going to talk about that today and what you can do.
But first, I want to tell you that this is actually National Pollinator Week according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. So this is an appropriate thing for us to be talking about.
And what I didn’t know is that not only do bees colonate, but also birds, butterflies, beetles. And that’s our pollinators.
There’s this very interesting website put together by the US Fish and Wildlife Service called Pollinators. It’s at FWS.gov/pollinators. And it shows all the different kinds of animals that pollinates and how we can help them.
Today, we’re going to talk specifically about the bees.
So, welcome, Zeke. Thanks for being with me.
ZEKE FREEMAN: Thanks so much. And happy birthday.
DEBRA: Thank you. I had a great birthday. I went out and I had a raw, organic vegan lunch which was fabulous! I’m not a vegan, but I can tell that my body is, as time goes by, and I eat more raw vegetables, it actually wants more raw vegetables.
I wouldn’t even say that I’m in transition. I noticed that at different times in my life, my body needs different types of food. And right now, what my body wants to eat is raw vegetables. I had a wonderful experience yesterday with that.
ZEKE FREEMAN: That’s fantastic! I’m very much the same. I grew up a corn and potatoes and meat eater. As I’ve grown and learned and eat more, the more vegetables I want in my plate and the less of the others.
DEBRA: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly how I am too, yeah.
ZEKE FREEMAN: It makes me feel better, it really does.
DEBRA: It does for me too. And I’m a person who grew up on a lot of fast food and a lot of sugar. I used to eat sugar in every meal and in between. I used to eat like only chocolate cake for dinner, but that is not the case anymore.
ZEKE FREEMAN: You should not be embarrassed about that.
DEBRA: I have been known to eat a whole gallon of ice cream and a whole coconut cream pie. Not anymore!
ZEKE FREEMAN: We may have been separated at birth then because my wife knows just not to buy ice cream because if it’s in the freezer, then I eat it. And that’s just the way it goes.
ZEKE FREEMAN: She tried getting mad at me for years. And now, she’s just given up. There’s no hope for keeping sweets in my house because I will eat them.
DEBRA: Yes. Tell us how you got interested in doing what you do, to be selling raw varietal honeys.
ZEKE FREEMAN: I’m very fortunate that I grew up on my family farm in Pennsylvania—spending summers there anyway. And we’re exposed forever to great vegetables and our own meat and our own corn. So I really started my life with great food in my life.
And when I went to college, I decided I wanted to go to culinary school and cook. And after that, I worked around France with a number of famous chefs, as well as in New York.
And when I decided to leave cooking, I knew I wanted to be completely involved in food still. And I worked for Dylan DeLuca for quite a period of time. And while I have been in DeLuca, my job was to buy packaged foods from around the world. And I was in charge of olive oil and vinegar and pea and coffee and everything else that’s in a jar, can or a box. And one of the things that fell under my purview fortunately was honey.
Very much like olive oil and vinegar, there are many different types of honey. And that’s one of the things. When you work in a very high-end retailer whose focus is on the individual providence of a product, you start getting really geeky about it. You start really getting into the individual nuances of where the coffee was grown or how it was processed. And the same was true with honey.
And what I found is we were importing all of these great honeys from around the world—chestnut honey from Italy and lavender honey from France and manuka honey from New Zealand. But we really didn’t have a focus on American honey. We had this one local guy. And he had wildflower honey. And that was it! That’s all we really had for American honey.
And maybe we had another one from California. So maybe we had two or three varietals from the US.
And I went, “There’s got to be all these varietals. For as many flowers as there are, there has to be all these American honeys.”
And that was the beginning of my interest in honey. And 10 years later, here we are.
DEBRA: That’s great! I’m so glad that you “brought it home” so to speak because America does have a lot of great resources, and we should be eating—as you probably agree—as close to home as possible.
I want to ask you a question because I don’t know the answer to this. I noticed on your website that you have a big focus on raw. And I want you to explain later to us, after the break, what that means.
But my most immediate question is it doesn’t say that your honeys are organic. And it’s been my impression for a long time—I haven’t really paid attention. And this is not a criticism, just a question. I have always assumed that whether honey was labeled organic or not, but I was that particularly concerned about pesticides. If there were pesticides, then it would probably kill the bills, and they wouldn’t be coming back to make honey.
So, could you just comment on that, so that people can understand and I can understand? Is there such thing as organic honey? What would that constitute? Should we be concerned about pesticides in honey.
ZEKE FREEMAN: So, organic, as you know just in general, is a fairly convoluted and touchy subject. In some places, it means a whole lot. And in some places, it doesn’t mean so much. When we’re talking about organic dish soaps, how much does that really mean to you?
But in a lot of places—and it has to do with your vegetables and your fruits—it really means something important. There’s no question about the toxic load that you’re consuming into your body.
The problem with honey, generally speaking, is that there are very few places in the world where there is enough land mass that we can get a guarantee that bees won’t pollinate somewhere where pesticides are being used. And this will apply up to three miles in any direction to collect pollen and nectar.
DEBRA: Wait! I’m going to just interrupt you right there because we have to go to the break. It sounds like you have a lot more to say which is great. So let’s just take a break there.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’re here with Zeke Freeman from Bee Raw. And we’re talking about bees, honeys and what you can do to help the bees and eat healthy sweets.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw, a leading brand for raw varietal honeys.
So, Zeke, before the break, you were telling us about organic. Go on with that please.
ZEKE FREEMAN: Sure! Bees fly in three miles in any direction to collect nectar and pollen to make honey. And the problem is that there are very few places in the world where bees can fly and do that without running into some sort of pesticide. And the USDA or the USDA organic honey won’t certify anything in the United States as of this point
So there’s a little bit of Canadian organic honey. And there is some organic honey from South America, but very little. And so that’s the reason why we don’t have any certified organic honey (because all of our honey is from the continental US).
That being said, what we do is we work with beekeepers who place their bee either on wild […] flowers, tracks the flowers that are completely wild (which is wild sage or wild raspberries). And we also work—when we have a varietal bit of a crop that is agriculturally grown, we try to work with beekeepers who place the bees on organic [unclear 11:44] such as organic orange blossoms.
So, that’s what we do to try to keep the pesticides low down as much as possible. And we expose the bees to insecticides as little as possible.
DEBRA: That’s great. So, I know from past experience in other fields having to do with organic that, just because it doesn’t say organic, doesn’t mean that it has pesticides on it or that there’s a lot of pesticides in it. I know that when I moved in California, and I was talking to California wine makers, some of them were making organic wine, and still they were not certified organic because they couldn’t afford the certification process or whatever it was, and that there were actually reasons why some farmers didn’t want to be certified which is a whole different story. But that didn’t mean that the wine wasn’t organic.
So, would you agree that with honey, we really don’t need to be concerned about excessive exposure to pesticides, especially if it’s a honey like your honey where care is taken to isolate where the bees are flying and putting them in particular places? I personally have never been concerned about that.
ZEKE FREEMAN: Yeah, I think that you hit it right on the nose there. You want to be buying your honey from a reputable source, whether it’s a beekeeper at your local farmer’s market, whether it’s a company like ours who really focuses on the beekeeper and working with small family apiaries whose interest is to make honey as opposed to some of the plastic honey bear producers who are producing mass quantity honey. You might have more of a concern there honestly. There’s just less care in the process of making honey.
And so I would say that that’s an important distinction to make. Look for someone who is a reputable producer.
DEBRA: Would you talk about the difference between raw and what you’re going to find in the honey bear and how, typically, honey is processed if you’re not looking for specifically raw honey?
ZEKE FREEMAN: Sure! The fact that honey that is not raw exists is really a shame because there’s really no reason to put honey through any sort of processing. The reasoning for putting honey through any processing is simply a matter of large producers believe that the consumer want that clear, liquid, amber color that you find in the honey bear. And the only thing that processing does is strips all of the good beneficial stuff out of the honey.
They heat it up to a high temperature which kills all the good stuff. and they microfilter it which pulls out the pollen and everything that tastes good. And then they blend it, a darker honey with a lighter honey to get that clear, amber color.
And in the meantime, they’re stripping out everything that’s good about the honey—the flavor, the health benefits—and then, giving us a product that we don’t really need. It’s really a shame that the processing happens at all.
So, raw honey is such a simple thing. It has so many good health benefits. It’s such a great sweeteners because it’s low on the scale of how it affects your body. It’s just silly that raw honey is processed at all.
DEBRA: Well, I agree with you. And I think that this gets back to—I talk a lot on the show about industrialization and how there’s an industrial mindset that says everything has to be the same. And in nature, everything is different.
And so, I think it’s so great that you are focusing on the varietal honeys because then we get to have these different nuances and flavors that we could put in the dishes that we’re eating every day.
And I personally have at least half a dozen different flavors of honey. I buy a lot of my honey at—I actually bought your honey at the natural food store. And I buy a lot of honey at farmer’s markets. And so they tell me, “Oh, here, our hives are in this location,” ten miles from my house. I really enjoy that. And I enjoy having different flavors.
You talk on your website about pairing different flavors of honey. We can talk about that later too. But I just think that honey is such an interesting sweetener. It’s a shame to take away those differences. And then they get all the same flavor in the honey bear.
So, after the break, we’re going to talk about what’s going on with the bees, what is the problem and what we can do to help the honey bees survive.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And we’re here with Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw. that’s BeeRaw.com. We’ll come back and talk more about honey.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw. And his website is BeeRaw.com. My website is ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com where you can go and learn about upcoming guests. And you can also listen to this and other past shows in the archives. So they’re there for you anywhere in the world 24/7. Just listen, listen, listen as much as you’d like,
So Zeke, now I’d like you to talk to us about what’s going on with the honey bee crisis—or I guess it’s all the bees—the colony collapse disorder. And what can we do to help save the bees.
ZEKE FREEMAN: Well, I’m just going to go ahead and plug what we’re doing right now. And hopefully, it will help your listeners get a very quick understanding of what they can do.
We just launched the Bee Raw Save the Bees Fund. People can find out more about it at BeeRaw.com/SavetheBees. And there are some very simple things that the listeners can do.
One, if they’re so inclined and want to keep it simple, they can donate to the Save the Bees Fund. And we, in turn, work with institutions like Viserys Institute which works for researching and protecting invertebrates, specifically honey bees.
They can sign our Pesticide-Free Pledge to pledge to not use pesticides and insecticides in their yard, and hopefully work with their municipalities to do the same in parks and so on and so forth.
And then, we’re also offering bee-friendly seeds, which we are selling. And the proceeds from those seed sales go to the Save the Bees Funds.
And planting flowers, both perennials and annuals, as well as flowering trees and shrubs, are one of the easiest things we can do all over the country to really help save the bees.
One of the problems with both urban and agricultural [sprawl] is that there are less and less places where bees have good, healthy storage. And nutrition is one of the cornerstones of colony collapse disorders in addition to pesticides and things like the [unclear 20:40]. We can talk about those things as well.
But we’re really trying to offer a very simple way for consumers to get answers and help in the solution by launching the Save the Bees Fund.
DEBRA: I really appreciate that you’re doing this because I like that you are, as a company, taking responsibility for the bees that are providing the product that you saw as well as selling a product. It really shows the consumer the whole cycle and connects the consumer to nature and responsibility for making sure that we continue to have the source of honey.
I just think that’s an admirable thing for you to do as a business. And I totally support and agree with what you’re doing.
I know that one of the things that I often think about and talk about is the loss of habit. And I happen to live in a place which is suburbia (I live in Florida). It’s suburbia, but I have a little piece of land. It’s a very small amount of land. I think it’s only a quarter acre. And it has a house on it. But I have a backyard, and I have a front yard. And I’m always thinking about how I can be making habitat as well as doing things like growing foods that I can eat. And I have a lot of birds and butterflies and bees in my yard.
I know that something that everybody can do that is listening is just go online and type in something like—what we do have them type in is “bee-friendly flowers” or something…
ZEKE FREEMAN: Absolutely!
DEBRA: And you can find the names of the plants that grow in your area that the bees want—in your area. Just plant the plants or toss the seeds on the ground and give your local bees a chance. Just anything that you can do to help in your backyard, or if you live in a high rise, in your community helping their bee […] This is all part of our responsibility as human beings.
So, tell us more specifically about the pesticides that are contributing to the plight of the bees.
ZEKE FREEMAN: Oh, I’d love to. So, we all know that agriculture uses pesticides and have for a very long time, since the industrial revolution—well, probably more specifically, since post-World War II. Many of the pesticides, in fact, were invented originally to be used in chemical warfare in World War II. And then, post-war, there wasn’t a use for them, right? And so they found other uses for them. And they began using them for pesticides.
So that’s kind of a scary thing if you think about just in our food supply before we even start talking about bees.
ZEKE FREEMAN: That’s where things have been since World War II. Industrialized agriculture has grown and grown. So that’s pretty scary.
In the past, 10 years or so, there have been some pesticides released by the large agricultural companies. And those are called neonicotinoids are based on nicotine. And they affect the nervous system of the insect.
The whole idea with the neonicotinoids is they were supposed to be more human-friendly because the half life of nicotine is much shorter prior pesticides and insecticides. And nicotine is not particularly bad for the human body.
Unfortunately, neonicotinoids, they’re actually putting them in the seed. So they’re becoming improving endemic. So, over time, while bees may not be effective the first time, they go to a crop that has a neonicotinoid in it. Over time, they actually build up this road of the chemical in their colony, in their honey. And there were times it actually completely destroyed the colony.
So they’re extremely dangerous. And that’s definitely another one of the cornerstones of why people are having such a hard time today.
DEBRA: Yeah! And what we can do just to make it simple is we should be using organic gardening methods and not use pesticides of any kind in our gardens at all.
Okay! So, we need to take another break. But after the break, we’re going to talk about something delicious, how we can use honey in various ways, particularly raw honey and keeping its raw characteristics.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And we’re here with Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw talking about honey.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest is Zeke Freeman, CEO of Bee Raw.
His website is BeeRaw.com. And we’ve been talking about how we can save the honey bees and how to choose good honey.
And now, let’s talk, Zeke, about what to do with your varietal honeys—or I guess varietal honeys or any combination honeys.
One of the things that I have recently had my attention on a lot earlier—and I mean earlier in life—I thought when I used to eat honey out of the honey bear, I just thought of honey as being honey. And so when I started being interested in natural sweeteners, I just thought, “Well, let’s make honey cake. And let’s make honey cookies.”
And I think there’s nothing wrong with that because people who are transitioning out of eating sugar only eat things that they’re familiar with.
But once I started understanding about raw honey, what I wanted to do is make desserts or other dishes that would preserve the health qualities, as you talked about earlier, of raw honey. And if you’re buying raw honey instead of heated honey, to cook it in something (bake it in a cookie or something) kind of defeats the purpose of it being raw.
And I know you have a lot of recipes on your site that have to do with cooking honey. But I also know, because I’ve looked at your site, that you do talk about preserving the rawness of the honey. I was reading a recipe about making iced tea. And you talked about making a simple syrup of the honey by combing it with warm water, not hot water (as you usually would making a simple syrup). So I appreciate…
ZEKE FREEMAN: That’s right. This is my favorite part of the conversation to have.
DEBRA: Mine too!
ZEKE FREEMAN: As a chef and a honey lover, I’d much rather be talking about this than talking about saving the bees. So I’m very excited to talk about this.
So, we like to cook with honey a lot because the individual characters of honey can be brought out in so many different ways.
We also try to cook with honey and offer ways to cook with honey that you grade the honey as little as possible. So we try to play a balancing act there.
One, people often don’t know where to go with honey past toast […] So we want to give them as many opportunities to use honey as possible because it’s a great replacement sweeteners no matter what because of its low glycemic index.
So, when you do a simple thing like glazed carrot which is a fantastic spring dish—some grazed carrots and pearl onion—and you replace what traditionally was sugar with a little bit of honey, the profile in terms of the sweetness and the glaze all remain the same. And you get a slightly different characteristic change. And it’s healthy for you.
DEBRA: It is! And I do want to say and I really want to stress this point. It’s not a black-and-white issue. It’s more of gradients.
If you’re putting sugar on your glazed carrots, and then you put honey on instead, that’s so much better than using sugar. But it’s not preserving the raw qualities of the honey.
I suppose you could cook your onions and carrots, and then put the honey on at the end, so that it would just warm up the honey and not cut everything out of it.
ZEKE FREEMAN: You just sprinkle it, you just drizzle it in the end with the liquids that are there, and it will glaze very quickly.
DEBRA: Yeah, that would be the way to do it.
ZEKE FREEMAN: And then, the other side of that coin is the negative effects that sugar has on the environment.
DEBRA: Oh, tremendously!
ZEKE FREEMAN: There’s that whole other side of the argument that we’re not even getting into.
DEBRA: Yeah, yeah.
ZEKE FREEMAN: So, replacing sugar with honey is beneficial both for the environment as well as your body.
DEBRA: And the point that I was wanting to make was that even if you did make some of these delicious recipes like honey pecan pie where it’s going to be cooking the honey at 350°, it’s still so much better than eating sugar. It’s not as healthful as eating the raw honey because you don’t have all the benefits of the raw honey because it’s now cooked. But still, it’s so much better than eating sugar. I’d much rather have you eat a pie or a cookie made with cooked honey than with sugar.
And that’s what we want to do. We want to move in the right direction.
ZEKE FREEMAN: I agree with that. I agree with that completely.
And the good news is this is not like trading in some vegetarian protein for meat. This isn’t half as good substitute. That honey pecan recipe is awesome! I mean that just is so good, it’s not a trade-off at all. If you look through my website, you’re going to see the cocktails we put together, some of the fish dishes, the barbecue dishes. I mean, these are not trade-offs. These are fantastic, fantastic…
DEBRA: No, they are. They are delicious. And for three years, I published a website where I took every natural sweetener I could find, and I made up recipes using them. And I’m bringing those recipes back. So I’ll be making recipes with your honeys for sure.
But what I found was that I actually preferred eating the desserts made with all these natural sweeteners honey and maple syrup and things because the flavors were so much better than just eating regular sugar. And I don’t even like the taste of white sugar anymore. I won’t eat a white sugar for dessert because it just takes like chemicals!
ZEKE FREEMAN: I couldn’t agree more.
DEBRA: So anything made from honey is an improvement of our eating processed food, of our cooking with sugar. It’s just a delight. And I can’t even describe how wonderful it is because it’s so wonderful.
I’m looking at a recipe for raspberry honey crème fresh with a little […] cookie. And I’ve been finding that as I’ve been exploring raw honey and what to do with it, that a lot of times, what I’m finding is to just put the honey in its raw state on top of something or mix it with something, and then it becomes a dessert.
For example, I love ricotta cheese. And so I’ll take ricotta cheese and just put it on a bowl. And I’ll drizzle the honey on top of it.
I’ll sprinkle some nuts on it or a few raspberries or whatever fruit is in season. And that’s a wonderful dessert.
And I’ve been thinking about how I could make things in a more savory version, and then just drizzle the honey on top.
Tell us some other ways that you think about this as a chef, about what to do with raw honey.
ZEKE FREEMAN: I have to say one of my favorite honeys for cooking is buckwheat honey. And buckwheat honey, we refer to it as the Guinness of honey. It’s like the block gets dark [unclear 34:43]. It’s a little bit tart and tangy. It has this molasses, kind of barnyard-y characteristic to it. So, it’s probably the honey I cook with most.
And to go to your idea about the ricotta, one of my favorite things in the spring when there’s fresh ricotta or really fresh goat cheeses is to take a nice, white platter or plate, pour the buckwheat honey (which is this beautiful black and white color going on), and then put white goat cheese or ricotta right in the middle of it. It’s just really beautiful.
So, it always inspires a lot of ooh’s and ah’s when you put it on the table as well as it’s just delicious.
But in terms of cooking, buckwheat is just fantastic because it really stands up to cooking. So whether you’re barbecuing with it or—I make a fantastic buckwheat honey barbecue braised short rib which really, really just infuses the buckwheat. It really just infuses into a whole dish. It’s just a really rich, hardy winter dish.
And to that end, I also make a miso-glazed salmon which you could probably do about any honey with. I like the buckwheat, I like the lighter honeys with it. I take a little bit of miso, some beer, some honey, mix those together. And then marinate the salmon (or another kind of fatty fish) for half an hour to two hours. You roast it really hot, and you just get this beautiful glaze on the fish. And you get this sweet/salty glaze that’s just really enjoyable. And it’s easy, just tremendously easy.
DEBRA: Yes! it is so easy. And you can just put a bit in your smoothie or in a salad dressing or just put it—like greens, for example, greens are so bitter that you need to have something that kind of sweetens it up. And just as we were talking about with the carrots, just right at the end, you could just add a little bit of honey, and you still have those raw characteristics.
Zeke, thank you so much for being with me today. This has really been a pleasure. And again, Zeke’s website is BeeRaw.com.
Go take a look. Every honey tells you the location of the apiary, the floral source, and different things you could do with it.
Our time is up for today! Go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and find out all about this show, upcoming guests and listen to the archives. If you enjoyed the show, tell your friends. I’ll be back tomorrow!