The Culinary Literacy Center is all abuzz about one of its most special projects: making honey! A little known fact about Parkway Central Library is that we have an apiary, otherwise known as a collection of honeybee hives, on the rooftop near our culinary classroom. There are ten hives, each hosting a “colony” of about 60,000 individual bees — so that’s a lot of honey! You can now purchase your very own Free Library honey in collaboration with our friends at the Philadelphia Bee Company and help support the Culinary Literacy Center.
When the weather is a bit warmer, the Culinary Literacy Center hosts honey workshops that include a visit to the rooftop apiary, followed by a demonstration and tasting. In our program Bees and Cheese, we discuss how honey can differ in flavor depending on bees’ diet and habitat, and demonstrate how different varieties of honey can be used to enhance the taste of various kinds of cheese. These programs are often led by our expert local beekeeper Don Shump, owner of the Philadelphia Bee Company and friend of the Free Library.
Don began his work with bees as an amateur, volunteering at the Southwark/Queen Village community garden, which has kept hives since the late 1970s. Eventually, Don acquired his own hives and incorporated them as a full-scale business. He now runs 12 apiaries throughout the Philadelphia area, including two at branches of the Free Library. He installed the Culinary Literacy Center’s hives and those at the Richmond Library (you can learn about Richmond’s librarian Amy Thatcher and the bee program she started there) nearly six years ago. In addition to installing and maintaining the hives, as well as harvesting the honey, Don helps host the library’s honey programs, where his enthusiasm and expertise make him a beloved guest instructor. Of his partnership with the library, Don says, “I’m surprised by the fact that there’s a culinary aspect to the library, and that’s a direction I’m happy to see the library going. The library is not just about books, it’s about broader education. Having access to that is a big deal and something people should take more advantage of.”
If you’re curious about honeybees and would like to learn more, check out the Culinary Literacy Center’s Bees and Cheese book list. And with our hives close at hand, we welcome our patrons to join us for our fun and educational programs on the subject throughout the year. If you’re interested in supporting the Free Library and would like to enjoy some locally sourced honey while doing so, you can now purchase an eight-ounce jar of honey harvested directly from the Free Library’s rooftop hives!
The Philadelphia Bee Company is donating $2 of every jar of Free Library honey to the Culinary Literacy Center to support our programming for youth, neighborhood engagement, and English language learning. The honey is available for purchase and will make the perfect gift for the person in your life who loves food, science, or libraries!
Want to learn more about bees and beekeeping? Don recommends the following resources, all available through the Free Library:
The following two books are by Thomas Seeley, who Don describes as “A rock star in the beekeeping community. There aren’t many very famous beekeepers, but he’s one of them.”