Honey from KKL-JNF Forests

Eight years ago, KKL-JNF and the Honey Council began a joint project of planting 100,000 specimens of nectar providing trees and plants each year, in order to address the problem of Israel’s dwindling nectar sources, which meant less honey in the Land of Milk and Honey. As a result, Israeli honey production in 2019 hit a record high: 4,000 tons of honey were produced by 120,000 beehives around the country. We are proud to be part of this sweet success story!

 


A bee collecting nectar from an almond blossom.
Photo: Yaakov Gerzon,
www.wildflowers.co.il


Almond trees blooming in Rabin Park.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Nectar producing trees in KKL-JNF Forests


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

KKL-JNF and the Honey Council are constantly involved in identifying additional areas that are suitable for planting, while cooperating with the heads of local authorities throughout the country in order to save the bees. Herzl Avidor, CEO of the Honey Council, says that there is a great fear for the future of the honey industry all over the world, due to the disappearance of about a third of the world’s bees. “Albert Einstein said that four years after the bees disappear, humanity will disappear. Without bees there is no pollination and no vegetation; there are no animals, and eventually there will be no people.”

Avidor adds: “The honey bee’s survival is critical for human beings, as it is nature's main pollinator, and is responsible for pollinating 80% of the world's agricultural crops. Thanks to the existence of the bees, the global food market enjoys a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Honey bees provide raw materials for many medicines and play a significant role in the world's textile, perfume and cosmetics industries. This is why it is vital that all Israeli organizations and every individual commit to planting nectar-providing plants in their gardens. Every additional nectar-providing plant will help provide food for the honey bees and ensure the continued existence of agriculture and food production.”

KKL-JNF allocates areas of forest to bee-keepers and plants trees whose flowers provide nectar, so that new varieties of honey can be produced. When visiting KKL-JNF forests you will see plots of eucalyptus, jujube, almond and carob trees with rows of beehives arranged alongside them, all producing honey unique to that particular site.


Eucalyptus Torquata in bloom in the Negev.
Photo: Sara Gold,
www.wildflowers.co.il

In recent years the planting of nectar-producing trees has become part of the annual afforestation plan, and in some cases it serves as an alternative to conserving land for farming. This tree-planting also plays an important ecological role in the development of green belts throughout the country.

The chemical composition of forest honey differs from that of honey from open fields, because forest honey contains the essence of trees, rather than flowers. Beekeepers who produce honey from woodland trees use one of two principal methods of extraction: they either focus on a specific variety of tree, and produce eucalyptus honey, jujube honey, tamarisk honey or carob honey; or else they concentrate on a particular area of forest that yields its own unique local product, such as Menashe Forest honey, Ben Shemen Forest honey, etc. As trees such as the eucalyptus, jujube and carob flower in the autumn, which is generally the hardest time of the year for beekeepers, when nectar is in short supply, these trees allow producers to prolong the honey-harvesting season into this otherwise difficult period of the year.

Honey from the river red gum tree (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

Eucalyptus trees are considered to provide “the most abundant grazing for bees,” and the strong-tasting orangey-yellow honey produced from their flowers is of high quality, gives off its own special aroma and has a slightly medicinal aftertaste. It is very sweet.


Red Eucalyptus blossoms.
Photo: Michael Huri, KKL-JNF Photo Archive


Yellow Eucalyptus blossoms.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Different varieties of eucalyptus flower at different times of the year. Some remain in bloom all year round, while others produce blossoms only in the autumn, at a time when very few native Israeli woodland trees are in bloom. In recent years, KKL-JNF has acclimatized a number of nectar-bearing species and varieties in Israel – mainly small trees with abundant flowers in shades of pink, red, yellow and violet.

Over the past few years, 800 thousand eucalyptus trees have been planted for nectar-producing purposes in the Sharon, the Jezreel Valley, the Coastal Plain, the Hefer Valley, the Arava and the Jordan Valley. Israel’s oldest and most famous eucalyptus woodland is Hadera Forest. Eucalypts can also be found in Sergeants’ Grove in Netanya’s Winter Pond Park and the Bahai Gardens to the north of Acco. Dudaim Forest in the Negev also has a large number of eucalyptus trees that bear orange and red flowers, and these small colorful trees easily catch the eye of the visitor. Additional eucalypti can be found in abundance in the Hefer Valley and the Menashe Hills.

Honey from carob trees


Flowers of a female carob tree. Photo: Yaakov Gerzon, www.wildflowers.co.il


Flowers of a male carob tree. Photo: Zachar Horowitz, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) flowers in October, and the dark golden honey produced from its nectar is moderately sweet.

The tree is pollinated by insects and the wind, and its fruit ripens in July and August, almost a whole year after the tree has flowered. The flat, elongated fleshy seed pods, which are sweet and good to eat, develop from the flowers of the female tree and contain small hard seeds of uniform size, known in Hebrew as gerot, each of which weighs around 0.2 grams. This word, from Greek keration, is the source of the English word carat, which is used to express the weight of precious stones and the purity of gold.

Although male carob trees bear no fruit, they do produce flowers, which give off a distinctive smell.

Carob trees can be found on the calcareous sandstone (kurkar) ridges of Israel’s coastal region, from Rosh HaNikra in the north all the way south to the city of Netanya, especially on hills less than 400 meters above sea level. They are also found in the foothills of Eastern and Western Galilee, Mount Carmel, the Menashe Hills and the Judean Hills.

Today KKL-JNF plants carob trees in mixed broad-leaved forests.

The jujube tree (Ziziphus spina-christi)

The orange honey produced from the flowers of the jujube tree is delicately flavored and very sweet. Although the jujube is defined as an evergreen tree, it behaves differently from place to place. In dry areas with low temperatures, it becomes partially or completely deciduous, but in warm climates where water is plentiful it continues to grow and flourish all year round, and has two flowering seasons – one in the spring (April), and the other in summer (August) – both of which result in ripe fruit.


The star-shaped blossoms of the Jujube tree.
Photo: Yochaig, Wikimedia Commons.


Fruit of the Jujube tree.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The pale yellowish flowers, which are shaped like five-pointed stars, contain nectar, and are pollinated by bees. The fruit are small yellowish or orangey-brown balls each containing a single large seed; their taste is sweet and floury.

In Israel, jujube trees are found growing in Hatzeva, Jericho, the gullies of the Judean Desert, the Jordan Valley, the Judean Hills, the Coastal Plain, Galilee and the Golan. The oldest and most impressive specimen, which is estimated to be around 500 years in age, can be seen at Ein Hatzeva, about a kilometer from the gas station to the west of Route 90.