Tucked away in the sprawling property on The Woodlands Resort is a group of new permanent guests and they are causing quite the buzz. What started as a cool project has surprisingly turned into something the entire community can share. The secret: bees. And, honey from the resort bees is helping transform the menu at the restaurant on property, Robard’s Steakhouse.
“After they told us we were getting beehives, we started getting really excited,” said Ryan Witcher, Robard’s Executive Pastry Chef. “When we found out the bees were doing really good in their hives and producing a lot of honey, I got together with the culinary team to think about possible recipes.”
Ed Erwin is a Master Beekeeper and Executive Director of Bee Harmony, a non-profit group that educates people about the importance of bees and beekeeping. Early last year, he was sent on a mission: make a place for bees at The Woodlands Resort.
“Bees are dying,” explains Erwin, “and The Woodlands is a great place to house bees because of all of the trees and green space. I was excited to have this opportunity at The Woodlands Resort.”
The plan: Erwin and his team take care of the bees on The Resort property and whatever honey comes from the hives goes to Robard's. Right from the start, the tiny army of bees surprised everyone.
“We put bees out last November. Then, a month ago from the two hives we got six gallons of honey,” said Erwin. “That was a lot - way more than we were expecting for that young of hives.”
Erwin says, “The abundance of trees and flower plants is part of what made the first season for the bees so successful.”
“A honeybee only lives 42 days,” he explains. “They live the first 21 days in the hive and the last 21 days they are the bees you see on the flower out foraging to bring back pollen. It takes 12 bees working their entire lives to make one teaspoon of honey. So, you do the math, six gallons of honey took more than 55,000 bees.”
Honey is a “Prized Possession” at Restaurants
Once the honey was taken from the hives, it didn’t take long for the culinary team at Robard’s Steakhouse to catch wind of the new product they had to work with.
“We tasted the honey and it was so amazing,” said Witcher. “Completely organic and made just 30 feet from the bake shop. We make sure to take time to brainstorm as a team of how we can showcase such a prized possession to us.”
The recipes at Robard’s Steakhouse are always created based off of what is in season and what is available at the time. The tasty honey is being used in several areas of the menu.
“We are trying to use the honey in the most meaningful and impactful way. There is a honey vinaigrette on our popular salad called the Ms. Lily, with shaved asparagus, fava beans and crushed pistachios.” Explains Witcher, “We are using a soy honey marinade for the mushrooms and for dessert, the honey lavender ice cream or honey glazed apricots.”
Both Erwin and Witcher agree having the bees is about much more than just getting honey to share with the community.
“There is a lot of talk about sustainability with bees and wildflowers,” said Witcher. “For us to be part of that and have it on our property, it’s about protecting our resources and caring about the community.”
“I think there is a lot of opportunity for people to have beehives in The Woodlands and The Woodlands Resort is part of something bigger by having these hives,” said Erwin.
At The Resort, the beehives are kept behind a fenced in area so guests don’t accidentally venture over and get stung. Erwin plans on adding more hives to the property in hopes of helping more bees find their home at The Resort.