John "Cioci" Dalire lives a sweet life. As a professional beekeeper, tending 81 hives on Molokai and Oahu’s Windward side, he makes a living producing his All Hawaiian Honey. It’s a job Dalire calls his "destiny," the result of his righting a mistake made 15 years ago.
HAWAIIAN HONEY AND ARTS FESTIVAL
» When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
At the time, Dalire was a woodworker and pahu maker, and he was to make trophies for the Merrie Monarch Festival. He found a log for the project and cut into it, but the wood was home to a beehive. Guard bees flew out and attacked him. In anger, Dalire torched the tree and killed the bees.
"But then I noticed honey dripping down from the tree," he recalls. "I realized I was being a stupid human and that now I owed them."
Not long afterward, Dalire came upon a beekeepers booth at a fair. After some inquiry he became an apprentice of longtime beekeeper Rhea McWilliams. It turned out his big mistake paved a path to his life’s passion.
"I have a fascination for these insects that can do so many things," he says. "Local honey is just so good. It’s so healthful."
Dalire hopes to spread the joys of beekeeping and honey at the Hawaiian Honey and Arts Festival on Sunday at Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens in Kahaluu. The event, organized by the Hawaiian Honey Bee Coop, will feature seven beekeepers and include information booths, honey products, arts and crafts, artisan demonstrations, local food, keiki games and entertainment.
Dalire says local premium honeys are derived from tropical flowers. His include Christmas berry, lehua and combinations of lychee, citrus, Java plum, coconut and octopus tree.
One of his best sellers is a lychee blossom and citrus honey, a light, golden variety made in hives at Senator Fong’s. "You can taste the citrus blend," he says.
Scott Nikaido, a University of Hawaii bee technician, says there are between 10 and 15 professional Hawaii beekeepers who run small businesses and 100 to 200 hobbyists who own as many as 10 hives each. There are just a couple of big bee businesses, and they are on the neighbor isles.
Nikaido says it’s best to buy local honey to ensure quality. Origins of imported products are hard to trace, and purity can be questionable. "A lot of honey comes from China, where they add antibiotics and corn syrup to increase yield," says Nikaido. "There are restrictions on the stuff from China, so some of it is shipped to Brazil or Mexico and repackaged."
Price is a good reflection of quality. Expect to pay two to three times more for raw local honey.
Dalire moved four hives to Senator Fong’s after he was approached by Hiram Fong Jr., who loves spending time tending the gardens that span 150 acres. Dalire eventually built up to 14 hives.
"You see all these lychee trees?" Fong says, swinging his arm in an arc across a field. "Three years ago there were no lychee — and there were no bees. Mites got ’em. I got desperate and tried hand-pollinating, but can you imagine pollinating 200 trees? The following year I found John, and a year later I had a bumper crop."
The lack of bees in gardens are due to the varroa mite, among the most destructive bee parasites globally. The pest has annihilated feral bee colonies, wreaking havoc on farms and gardens.
"The biggest importance of bees in our ecosystem is their pollination of tropical fruits and vegetables. So far, nothing is as efficient as the honeybee," Nikaido says.
This has led to partnerships between beekeepers, gardeners and farmers. The win-win: Bees pollinate plants to support crops, and keepers have a friendly place for their bees.
"If you’re not in an agricultural area, it’s hard to harvest in your back yard," says Dalire. "Legally, you can keep two or three hives in a residential area, but neighbors usually don’t like it."
These partnerships are especially important in Hawaii, says Nikaido. We’re one of the few states that doesn’t have pollination services, where keepers are paid to bring hives onto farms.
The Big Island’s large-scale Mauna Loa Farms, a macadamia nut grower, "has tons of hives on its property," he says. "Farmers there know the importance of bees: Their yield is three to six times more with (the presence) of bees.
"But in a place like Waianae, where there are small-scale farms, there are no bees. Farmers can’t afford pollinators, and it’s to the point where some of them are switching crops from watermelon and cucumbers to dry-land taro, which needs no bees."
Molokai Meli, run by the Kaneshiro family, will be at the festival this weekend.
The family of six, who grow their own food on their land, got into the business in 2004 because the eldest child, Elijah, developed a recipe for salad dressing and wanted to market it. One of the ingredients was honey.
"We started producing it and turned it into a family business," says matriarch Brenda Kaneshiro.
The family has 75 hives with bees hand-picked from wild hives in kiawe forests. The resulting kiawe honey is a creamy, silky white variation that’s exported all over the world.
"We send it to Japan, Korea, China, France, the United States, and people e-mail and say it’s the best honey in the world," she says.
The Kaneshiros learned everything they know from Dalire. Today the family visits schoolchildren and seniors to share information on the importance of bees. They even provide hive removal services to the community.
"We get fire and police departments calling us. It’s great," Brenda says.
She says the family thinks it’s important the children continue the business after they’re grown, "not only for our economy, but for our environment."
Each Kaneshiro child will bring honey products to sell at the festival. Tabitha, 13, will sell surfboard wax and candles; Elisabeth, 9, has prepared lip balm and stick perfume; Esther, 7, has assembled birthday candle kits; and Elijah, 16, will sell his dressing.
Dalire says he hopes to find a few Oahu youths interested in becoming beekeeping apprentices.
"I’d like to have a child experience beekeeping. It’s something different for them to tap into, and if they’re entrepreneurial they can do this for (a living)," he says. "Beekeeping is a culture, and … if the kids can do it, they’ll keep culture alive."
KABOCHA PUMPKIN WITH CRANBERRIES AND NUTS
Chef Alan Wong, from "The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook,
1 small kabocha, about
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts, or any other nut
3 tablespoons canola oil
Lehua honey, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Wash kabocha and slice lengthwise into 6 pieces. Remove seeds and fiber. Cut each slice crosswise into
1/4-inch-thick slices, leaving skin on.
In large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add kabocha and cook, turning slices in pan. When kabocha is 2/3 cooked, drizzle with honey, to taste. Turn off heat; add cranberries and nuts.
Add salt to taste and mix thoroughly. When cranberries and nuts are heated through, transfer to serving dish and serve. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including honey and salt to taste): 240 calories, 19 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, no cholesterol or sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 3 g protein
SOY HONEY CHICKEN
National Honey Board
2-1/2 to 3 pounds chicken
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry or water
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Combine marinade ingredients.
Place chicken in plastic bag or large glass baking dish. Cover with marinade, turning pieces to coat. Close bag or cover dish. Marinate in refrigerator at least 6 hours, turning two or three times.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade; reserve marinade. Arrange chicken on rack in roasting pan. Cover chicken with foil. Bake 30 minutes.
Bring reserved marinade to boil in small saucepan over medium heat; boil
3 minutes and set aside. Uncover chicken; brush with marinade. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 45 minutes longer or until juices run clear, brushing occasionally with marinade. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: (using 2.5 pounds boneless, skinless thighs): 500 calories, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 235 mg cholesterol, greater than 2,000 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 35 g sugar, 60 g protein
Approximate nutritional information, per serving (using 2.5 pounds boneless thighs with skin): 760 calories, 43 g fat,
12 g saturated fat, 250 mg cholesterol, greater than 2,000 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 35 g sugar, 53 g protein
PUMPKIN HONEY BREAD
National Honey Board
1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 can (16 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans well.
Cream honey with butter until light and fluffy. Stir in pumpkin. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
In separate bowl, sift together remaining ingredients. Stir into pumpkin mixture.
Divide batter equally between pans. Bake 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans 10 minutes; invert pans to remove loaves and finish cooling on racks. Makes 2 loaves, about 32 servings.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 140 calories, 4.5 g fat,
2.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol,
200 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate,
1 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 3 g protein
"Sam Choy’s Polynesian Kitchen"
1 cup fresh orange juice
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon minced orange rind
Salt, to taste
In small saucepan over high heat, bring orange juice to boil. Reduce to consistency of honey. Cool.
In food processor, blend orange syrup, honey, butter, rind and salt until smooth.
Place sheet of parchment or wax paper on work surface. Pour butter along length and form into log about 1 inch in diameter, leaving 1-inch border of paper. Roll butter in paper and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Yields 2 cups.
Approximate nutritional information, per tablespoon (not including salt to taste): 35 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrate,
2 g sugar, no sodium, fiber or protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.