Early Saturday morning three trucks pulled up to the corner by the bank. Little stands suddenly unfolded on the pavement. From the cross beams of makeshift roofs, from the ribs of flapping beach unbrellas, tin scales were hung by long-haired women in print dresses. City folk approached mounds of silver-kernelled corn dumped on the sidewalk, and clustered around baskets heaped with cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes. Home-grown melons held tiny specks of West Virginia earth, open cardboard boxes displayed perfectly formed brown eggs. Jars of translucent jellies glowed next to berries, black, "picked just this morning, before the sun was up."
Urbanites, hungry for fresh fruit and vegetables, hit the sidewalk early. Beneath mushrooming farm stands, ancient rites of the market place prevailed at 18th Street and Columbia Road -- the Adams Morgan agora. Above segments of white cheese laid out on a paper bag a farmer bellowed, "Pure goat's milk cheese, try our goat's milk cheese," and stabbed up an offering on the point of his pocket knife. In a basket of cukes, the folks from Licking Creek Bend Farm up near Hancock, Md., had postered the credentials of this group of organic farmers who bring us "no chemicals, no dyes, just fresh wholesome food."
As I reached up to put some peaches into the scale at New Morning Farm, three arrogant wasps swooped the counter and buzzed a path to the cash box in front of which leaned three clear plastic bags of honey in the comb.
Honey in the comb! There it was, the complete comb, still in the section taken directly from the hive. Working spring blossoms far beyond the Beltway around Houstontown, Pa., a colony of bees had built this comb almost two inches thick. When set down on a plate, frame and all, the section of honey comb became a formidable piece of art. Gentle pressure from a silver spoon dug up a piece of the comb and released the flow of honey. The comb is crisp and perhaps you don't care for beeswax residue, but the honey! Clear and pure as your heart.
Honey in the comb cuts like butter. With a sharp knife, it can be loosened from the sides of the wooden section and sliced into pieces to fit in a glass jar. The honey will gradually extract itself from the comb and shortly you will have liquid honey with amber nuggets of waxy comb glittering in the jar. A pretty sight. If you object to the deliciously fragile wax on your teeth, pour out the honey as you use it, but squish the comb with a spoon until it is completely dry. There is more liquid gold in there than meets the eye and a lot bees make a lot of trips from flower to hive (well over 20,000) to produce a pound.
A simple recipe for: MEAD
Equal amounts of:
Pure Water (I use bottled spring water)
Pure honey (from the comb, not extracted)*
Let stand in a clean covered glass jar. In three days or so, the mixture should begin to sharpen. Let it stand until it acquires a pleasant ferment and becomes an uncommon tasting sweet wine.
*A twick of the comb fallen into the mixture seems to be the agent for fermentation.