Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Native Sun, Shalom Jacksonville Host Honey Tastings; Honey Is a Key Part of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Native Sun, Shalom Jacksonville Host Honey Tastings; Honey Is a Key Part of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year

Article excerpt

Byline: JOSEPH BANETH ALLEN

Benjamin Cohen stared in wide-eyed fascination at the buzzing bees toiling away nonchalantly in a glass-enclosed hive drawer on the table before him.

Cradled in mother Michele Cohen's arms, the 15-month-old toddler was getting his first real-world glimpse of the insects that make the food used in a variety of traditional Jewish prayers and traditions.

Teri Morris was also enthralled by the bees mulling about in their time-worn glass and wood enclosure.

"It's almost like they're dancing," she said smiling, watching the bees as they moved in circular patterns.

Morris and the Choens were some of the many Jews and non-Jews who attended one of two gourmet honey seminars hosted Sept. 8 at both Jacksonville Native Sun Natural Foods stores by Shalom Jacksonville, the Jewish Federation's official welcome wagon for Northeast Florida.

"Honey is an integral of the prayer services for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year," said Isabel Balotin, coordinator of Shalom Jacksonville.

"Apples are dipped in honey before being eaten and a prayer is said to God for a sweet and prosperous New Year," Balotin said. "Honey is also used in a good bit of Jewish holiday cooking in cakes and briskets throughout the year; yet a good many people don't know much about it other than they can buy jars of honey in the supermarket."

"So we decided to invite Mike Thomas to come out and talk to the entire community ... about all the different types of honey and how it's made," she said.

Thomas founded and owns Thomas Honey based in Lake City.

"Most people don't realize that honey is made by bees reducing the high moisture content of the nectar they collect by fanning the hive," he said.

Thomas' bees have also racked up travel miles from their own annual diaspora, traveling back and forth between the East and West coasts of the United States to pollinate field crops and fruit and nut trees.

"The flavor and texture of the honey depends upon the type of vegetable plant or fruit tree the nectar was harvested from," he said. …

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