Bee Local’s Damian Magista Redefines Local Honey: Meet the Maker

Posted on Dec 2, 2014

We’re wild about honey at Pistils: its rich taste, creamy texture and warm colors. In the quest to build our “honey wall” (6 producers, 15 varietals and counting!), we’ve tasted loads and loads of honey. What we’ve learned is that that not all honeys are created equal: the variety, both in quality and flavor, is enormous.

One of the newest producers to make the shelves of the our honey wall is also one we’re most excited about; the much acclaimed Bee Local Honey. Bee Local takes it’s name seriously; this honey is not only local to Portland, but to specific Portland neighborhoods!

As part of our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we recently chatted with Bee Local founder Damian Magista about the importance of bees, so-called (fake!) “local” honey, and just what makes his artisan neighborhood honeys unique. Plus, he shares his recipe for Hawaiian-style honey teriyaki sauce!

Damin Magista of Bee Local Honey

Damian Magista tending one of Bee Local’s hives. Photo by Mark Gamba.

Pistils Nursery: Why honey? What led you to bees and why should people care about them?

Damian Magista: Honey is the result of an amazing relationship between plants and insects dating back millions of years. It’s elemental and a direct reflection of the environment it is produced in.

I have always been fascinated by the natural world. In school I only read science and nature text books. Several years ago my neighbor told me he was getting a beehive. I immediately said that I had always wanted to keep bees but didn’t know where to start. He said that he would have his uncle bring me a hive of my own. A week later a hive showed, that was the beginning of the end.

Honey bees and pollinators in general are extremely important to the environment, and more selfishly, to humans. If we don’t have pollinators our food supply will very quickly become bleak. Say goodbye to the amazing range of edibles we enjoy. Right now we are experiencing some rather disturbing die-offs. We need to take a good hard look at why this is happening.

PN: Can you break down the idea of artisan neighborhood honey for us? What makes terroir-based honeys different from other local offerings?

DM: The idea of neighborhood honey is fairly straightforward; we harvest honey from different specific areas. Once that honey is harvested we do not blend it together. The reason for this is to preserve the flavor of each neighborhood. The difference is astounding. In wine terms we are capturing terroir, or as my friend Mike Alberty of Storyteller Wines coined “apisoir”. We don’t heat, treat or overly-filter our honey. It is raw.

Some so-called local honey out there is not local. It’s been purchased from a commercial beekeeper who may have taken his/her hives out of state and into pesticide laden mono crop environments. That honey is then repackaged and sold as local.

PN: A lot of high profile chefs in Portland seem to be featuring your honey in their food and drinks. Do you have any favorite honey recipe or concoction of your own to share?

DM: One of the most enjoyable things about my business is to be able to work with amazing chefs. To have such an incredible line up of local chefs using my product is humbling.

One of my favorite recipes with honey is a Hawaiian style teriyaki sauce. I learned it from a lovely family in 1994. It’s very easy; soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and honey. Adjust the ratios to taste. Marinate chicken, pork, fish or whatever protein you have. It’s best low and slow. The results are delicious.

Bee Local Honey food pairing

A tasting menu featuring with Bee Local Honey. Photo by Mark Gamba.

PN: We hear a lot about the collapse of bee colonies across the world these days. What can folks do to lead a more bee-friendly lifestyle, or at least reduce their impact on bee populations?

DM: The easiest would be to not use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on your property. The other is to plant pollinator friendly gardens (natives are the best but anything is good). Doing those two will provide lasting positive support of our pollinator populations.

Damian Magista tends a Bee Local Honey hive. Photo by Mark Gamba.

Damian Magista tends a Bee Local Honey hive.

PN: What are three uses for honey that most people might not yet know?

DM: Honey is actually used in hospitals for burns. It significantly aids in healing damaged tissue.

It’s exceptional for skin care; rashes, eczema, even daily face washing.

And of course, some swear that truly local honey helps with allergies.

Stop by the nursery for taste of Bee Local Honey, and feel free to try any of the other 14 honeys we have in store. Live out of town? We ship honey from our web shop.

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