On the shores of the Livari lagoons, a Natura 2000 protected wetland in the northern part of the island of Evia, a variety of fennel brought here by Asia Minor refugees is cultivated. The nectar from the flowers of these fennels is harvested by the bees of beekeeper Georgios Athanasiadis, owner of honey-producing company “Bee Naturalles,” which produces a very special, multi-awarded, organic, aromatic fennel/licorice honey.
Athanasiadis, with roots in Argyroupoli in Pontus, is not your typical beekeeper. He studies physics and has two postgraduate degrees; one in meteorology and one in sound engineering and multimedia, specializing in the recording of bee sounds (the “music of bees,” as he says). He is a certified organic beekeeper, and a teacher at the Hellenic Agricultural Organization “Dimitra,” collaborating with the biochemistry department at the University of Thessaly and with the chemistry department at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He’s also a precision apiculture researcher, studying individual bee colonies. His beekeeping journey began mostly as a joke, but from the first moment he opened a hive, he loved it. In 2013, he founded Bee Naturalles together with his wife Hara Magana, a biotechnologist. Based in Nea Artaki on Evia, they produce honey products, each one more special than the next.
To collect their organic wild herbs honey, which Athanasiadis defines as the essence of the wild Greek nature, he has “recruited” a special swarm of bees that produce honey only once during a six-month period (a “beekeeping year”). Over those six months, he transports the hives to almost twenty different parts of Greece, from northern Evia and Pilio to the Peloponnese, through forests, wetlands, and Natura protected areas, untamed mountains, and virgin meadows, so that the bees can pollinate and harvest nectar from a total of more than fourteen wild herbs and plants. Another special, rare honey of his, with a caramel flavor and other great characteristics, is an organic blue thistle and fir forest honey, produced by bees that harvest in the subalpine forests of Vardousia and Oita. There, they gather the nectar from firs and from an extremely rare thorn known as “glazoula,” growing in the mountainous, rugged ravines here.
The company’s honey range also boasts pine honey; fir honey; heather honey; fennel and anise honey; and the “Meloura” forest honey, produced by bees harvesting firs, pines, oaks, wildflowers, and herbs of the forest. They’re all organic.
In addition, they also produce other edible products such as a propolis tincture, royal jelly, and fresh polyfloral bee pollen, as well as natural cosmetics based on propolis, beeswax, and wild herbs. Their honey has won 30 major international platinum and gold awards, placing the company in the top three of gold medal-awarded organic honeys in the world.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
Bee Naturalles were awarded at the Gastronomos magazine’s 15th Quality Awards in December 2022 – an evening in honor of the culinary heritage of Asia Minor, and the producers and businesses run by the children and grandchildren of Asia Minor refugees.