As a youngster growing up on the coast, Denver would join his Zulu pals to go fruit and honey hunting in the bush. “We’d grab our buckets, rob wild hives, feast on whatever we found and come home dirty, sticky and stung,” he recalls. Denver was always fascinated by insects and snakes and learned a lot about the natural world by simply spending time observing these creatures.
Then in his early twenties, hitchhiking from Johannesburg, he was dropped at the Tweedie off-ramp, walked into town in search of supper and somewhere to stay, met some friendly locals and has not left Howick since. As soon as he could, he installed a few hives in his garden alongside his veggies and began to learn more about bees.
Nowadays, in partnership with Paul Duncan of Dovehouse Organic Farm and with invaluable assistance from Austin Choice, he runs Bee’s Knees – arguably the best honey in the area.
Denver is passionate about bees and bee keeping – doing his very best to keep hives healthy and the quality of the honey incomparable. In the Midlands, honey is only harvested during winter when the gum trees are in flower, producing lots of nectar which becomes an abundance of honey in the hives. “Through careful management of the bee space (cutting out some of the brood to allow more room), we encourage the bees to produce more honey than they can eat themselves.”
He has observed with sadness the decline in bee populations. Often when he puts out fresh hives (baited with propolis and wax) to attract new populations, they simply stand empty. He believes that good beekeepers are the saviours of the remaining populations. Much effort is put into ensuring that the bees he cares for are strong and healthy. During the summer this means making sure that there is still enough food for the hive to sustain itself, so that when the gums start flowering, the worker bees are ready to take advantage of the abundance of nectar. Many people don’t realise that pure honey is a seasonal product – it cannot be on the shelves all year round. Honey harvesting season is just 3 or 4 months long.
Clearly it takes a special kind of person to be a beekeeper – sweating in the sun in a bee suit, climbing trees and into roofs. Once Denver was stung 300 times – “if you can’t handle being stung, you can’t be a beekeeper,” he grins. When he needs some quiet time out, he will simply sit beside a hive in the early evening, observing the activity, admiring the queen. “Here I know I will be left in peace, with only the bees for company.”
Denver is justifiably proud of Bee’s Knees honey “Our product is the best it can be. I strive to get better all the time and continually improve the health of the bees.”
Honey is a precious resource. Did you know that a single bee in its entire 21day life (if it is lucky) will make just one teaspoon of honey?
Medicinal properties of raw honey are immense, with exceptional wound and burn healing qualities and natural anti-biotics. To make the most of the medicinal benefits, honey harvested from hives, produced from the pollens in the area where you live, is the way to go. Local honey should be eaten locally.
This simple cup of tea will do wonders to boost your immune system, detox your liver and reduce inflammation. At the first sign of a sniffle or fatigue, make some for yourself and your family.
1 tsp ground organic, non-irradiated turmeric powder (or 1 Tbsp grated fresh turmeric)
1 tsp ground organic,non-irradiated ginger powder/ ginger flakes (or 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger)
a few grinds of organic, non-irradiated black pepper
4 cups water
Combine turmeric, ginger, pepper and water, bring gently to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Cool a little.
To each cup, add a slice of fresh, organic lemon and half a teaspoon of raw honey.
The black pepper is essential to increase the bio-availability of the curcumin in turmeric.
Store extra tea in a jar in the fridge.