Jeff Bray is the co-founder and festival director of the award-winning Cultivate Festival in Northumberland County. He’s also an instructor at Centennial College, where he teaches about food tourism, a former restauranteur, and a contributing writer to Watershed Magazine. We asked Jeff to give us his thoughts on a few of the unique Taste of the Trent-Severn products developed by businesses around Kawarthas Northumberland.
What started as a hobby has turned into an award winning operation.
About seven years ago, John and Linda Moroz got into beekeeping. John did it a little as a kid and always imagined it being a wonderful retirement hobby. Quickly, though, a small apiary turned into 200 hives across Hastings. It was too much, too fast, so they found their way to a comfortable 150 hives and hit their stride, producing award-winning honey and wax.
I’m not talking about a local fall fair prize, which would have been amazing in its own right, I’m talking about the Reserve Grand Champion for Liquid Honey at the 2021 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair—a nationwide competition.
MoreRoses Apiaries & Honey has turned into quite a hobby.
You can tell right away by speaking with John that he nerds out over this stuff. I learned more about honey in 25 minutes than I had in the previous 41 years—and I am a food guy! I was in the restaurant game for 20 years. I teach a college course in a food tourism program. My festival, Cultivate Festival, was awarded Best Culinary Tourism Event in 2017. I know my stuff, but I had A LOT to learn. It didn’t feel like school though—John is able to speak in a way that’s so easy to follow and with so much passion. It was fascinating to listen to and it was clear quickly this was a labour of love.
It was John and Linda’s daughter who encouraged them to enter into The Royal, and it was worth it. The honey truly speaks for itself.
My own daughter and I visited for one reason—to try The Blossoms of The Trent. A white honey produced specifically for the Taste of The Trent-Severn Waterway, a program highlighting unique food and drink offerings along the TSW.
“Taste of place” is a term used to describe food telling the story of where it came from. Think Champagne in France, or Salted Cod in Newfoundland. Flavours and stories so unique that they can only be found in one geographic place.
This is culture, and I love it. In a tech-forward, globalized world that seems to be quickly becoming homogenized, it’s food and stories that can keep us grounded; slow us down. The Blossom’s of the Trent is a perfect example.
Did you know that you can taste what bees feed on in their honey? The most popular example might be buckwheat. Place some hives within a buckwheat field and that flavour shows up in the honey.
John told me that a bee would travel up to 5 miles to find what it’s looking for. However, if what it’s looking for is within a ¼ mile, it won’t go any further. That’s why it works for buckwheat. And that’s why it works for The Blossoms of The Trent.
Just north of their beautiful property, set in the rolling landscape of Hastings, is the Trent-Severn Waterway. Along the Trent is where John and Linda placed the hives early in the spring. By the banks of the river are a wonderful collection of wild flowers just beginning to blossom. Set back slightly are some early budding trees, and alfalfa. It’s dandelions, purple loosestrife, sumac and cherry blossoms that are in demand. When the bees come out after a long winter of buzzing to keep the queen warm, the pollen they need is right outside.
The result is a honey with wonderful depth—delicate and more floral than your average white honey. If I were a judge, it would get my vote. I haven’t tasted anything like it. My daughter, who is six, agreed. It was beautiful too, and more viscous than a store-bought honey. We tipped the jar on its head and back again many times, watching the air bubble ever so slowly make its way from the bottom to the top like a lava lamp. It was satisfying and tranquil.
We tasted six honeys that day, from traditional golden to chili spiced to creamed cinnamon. They were all wonderful, but none of them held a candle to The Blossoms of The Trent.
John believes he’s found a microclimate that helps keep the air dry, which is integral for quality natural honey. Between that and the abundance of wild flowers and trees just north of his property along the Trent River, which is also within flying distance of Rice Lake, the bees are living their best lives and turning out world-class honey in the process.
When asked about why it was important to them to play a role in the Taste of The Trent-Severn Waterway Tour, John and Linda say it’s all about the local food community. Clearly the Trent-Severn plays a big role here—it’s basically in their backyard! It’s the people that make it special though, and they believe Hastings is a pretty special place that is poised to make an impact on the scene real soon. I think I would have to agree with that.
If you’d like a taste, head out and say hello. MoreRoses is a small operation—it even has an honour box! I love that. You can drive right in and make your way through the cute little honey house, or, as I would suggest, give them a call first and see if they can walk you through a tasting and a beekeeper’s tour. It is such a pleasure.
Oh, and a pro tip—take home a jar and put it all over some Kawartha Dairy French Vanilla Ice Cream. My goodness, what a treat!