Monday, April 17, 2006

Thriving industry in Chatham forest

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Section of one of the plates from the bee hive. Note the white jelly-looking substance in the open cells. That's the Royal Jelly. Imagine how much of it has to be collected from cells in order to cater to public demand. No wonder it's so expensive.

It's not easy to describe the bee-keeping business in the Chatham forest, run by Chunilal and his wife. Partly because I was (i) busy taking photos and didn't soak in all of what he was saying (ii) keeping one ear out for approaching bees as I am allergic to bee stings and (iii) it's one of those things where you have to be there and have the available experiences, rather than reading about it on a blog. Seeing, hearing and tasting is believing.

From the few tiny bee huts amidst the greenery, Chunilal, his wife and their bees conjure up wondrous products such as international prize-winning honey, hair food, Royal Jelly, skin moisturizer, honey soap for dry skin, honey and saffron soap for oily skin ... and more. These products are packaged and sold and, from the stories the enterprising couple told my friend Nicola and I, users of the products (themselves included) have had great things to report. Much to our delight, we were given samples to take home and try.

Whilst in the forest, we also got to eat some interesting 'delicacies':
(i) Bee pollen - the actual pollen collected by the bees and packed into the cells of their comb for honey making. The pollen, which is like large dust grains in varying shades of yellow, tastes like a mix of flowers. For me the dominant flavour was Jasmine (it tasted like a Jasmine flower smells). The bee pollen is supposed to be very energising.
(ii) Royal Jelly - Chunilal dug a little slimy white Royal Jelly 'maggot' out of one of the cells of the hive and we tasted it. It's supposed to be bitter, but it was such a small morsel that we didn't get the full flavour. He explained to us that the Royal Jelly is good for many things, such as reversing the ageing process and dissolving cysts.

By the time we left the forest and made our way to their house to get samples of the different products, we were totally in awe. I now have even more respect for bees and what they can do. Their inate sensitivity is amazing and their work ethic is impressive.

Sitting in the forest of Chatham, unbeknownst to many is this fascinating jewel of an industry, creating world class products that deserve to be promoted. Why on God's green earth would anyone want to destroy this for a smelter?


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