Pour comprendre les abeilles, il faut vivre, marcher, manger avec elles. Comprendre leur manière d'être au fil du temps. Se laisser porter par ces moments uniques. Chef et apiculteur au Château St. Gerlach, Otto Nijenhuis partage avec nous sa vision sur les abeilles et l'art de l'apiculture.
“Home is where the bees are”
Château St. Gerlach was once a monastery that pilgrims would visit to pay homage to the hermit, Gerlach of Houthem. This was in the year 1200. Today, tucked away in the Geul Valley and Ingendael Nature Reserve, this historic country estate is not only a hotel set in a castle, but also a home to five bee hives and one observation hive which guests can look into to watch the bees at work. The extensive parks, vineyard, herb garden, orchard and rose garden make for a most verdant of playgrounds for these “good-hearted” pollinators, as Otto calls them...
10 Questions with Beekeeper, Otto Nijenhuis
1. Why and how did you get involved in beekeeping?
I was introduced to it through the Pastor of the Gerlachuschurch on our Estate who kept bees here first. I realised how important beekeeping is for nature and also for the orchard at Château St. Gerlach, and that the position of the world’s bees was not doing well. So I started actively learning more about them. Within a year I started beekeeping with my own bees.
2. Many people avoid taking up beekeeping in their hotels or homes as they fear being stung. Is there a trick to avoiding the sting – other than suiting up?
It is important to have good hearted bees; these are harmless. There is a bee called the Carnica which is a good hearted bee. It is very important that the queen is young and that she is selected externally or internally, but in the last case from the F1. This means that she has all the good qualities such as good hearted and produces many eggs. This helps produce lots of honey and keeps the bees on the honeycomb.
3. How have you incorporated beekeeping and its products in the kitchen at Château St. Gerlach?
Last year we produced 150 kilograms of honey. We serve honeycomb at breakfast and at dinner we serve honeycomb with the cheeses for dessert. We have our own honey in jars for sale and also use our honey in preparing several of our dishes.
4. The number one DO beekeeping?
Do: In the winter, do nothing. During the rest of the year, regularly check the bees for the varoa mite.
5. The number one DON’T of beekeeping?
Don’t do: Check the bees when a storm or thunder comes up (the bees will attack!)
6. What has beekeeping taught you about life?
Bees have taught me a lot about discipline and community – which they live and work for on a daily basis.
7. Your favourite honey blends?
Preparing pork using honey to caramelize the fat and, personally, I love the ice-cream we make using our own honey.
8. The best honey in the world?
Gerlachus Honey, of course!
9. What is the key to pairing honey with other ingredients like an expert?
Finding the right balance – the ingredients should not be too sweet and you should still be able to taste the other ingredients.
10. The secret to beekeeping is…
To love and respect your bees.