Grit Blogs > From the Ethnobotanist

Roses, Bees and Cows on My Plate

By Lawrence Davis-Hollander 


Tags: Honeycomb, recipe, honey, cheese, cheddar cheese, rose, rose oil, rose water, dessert, Lawrence Davis-Hollander,

A photo of Lawrence Davis-HollanderCombining honeycomb and cheese is not a novel idea and a quick perusal of the internet shows this to be the case, although I’m surprised there aren’t a lot more recipes for it.  A delightful combination of flavors and textures makes this dish well worth trying. Really  it is what you call a serving suggestion as opposed to a recipe.

Unless you’re raising bees honeycomb is somewhat of a luxury item costing $16-18 a pound. Usually it comes in squares cut from the frames or in preformed rounds that are filled by the bees in the hives and the resultant circular comb placed in round plastic containers for sale.

This recipe will astonish your palate, and whether that is a good or bad thing is your choice.  I insist you try it at least once in your life.  Buying local honey comb and cheese is a nice way to support your nearby farmers.

 I selected a sharp regional cheddar, in this case from Grafton Vermont and made less than quarter inch thick slices.   I cut out individual small wedges of the honeycomb and plated them. Alternatively if serving at a party you would plate the entire round or square. Cover the comb with a single layer of cheese. Then drizzle a small amount of rose water over the entire assemblage.  I think you need a cheese combination that creates contrast with the honeycomb—a hard cheese with sharp and/or salty flavors, although other combinations could work well.

 Eat.

 Observe the reaction.

This dish literally floored my 13-year-old (he fell on the floor). After recovering from the initial shock he wanted more, as did the 9-year-old. Rose flavor is not something most of us are used to, unless you come from eastern Europe and points east. The rose water I purchased originated in Lebanon, and seems fairly potent, listing concentrated rose water and “natural” rose flavors.

The second ingredient could be suspicious because rose flavor can be derived from a number of plants containing geraniol particularly grasses including citronella (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) and palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) and still be considered natural. While Lebanon is a minor producer of rose oil and related products when compared to Bulgaria and Turkey, who command 80-90% of the world market, nevertheless Lebanon is still a producer and this rose water could be pure rose. Attempts to email the company were blocked. Go figure. While many species of rose yield rose oil, as is evident from inhaling any heirloom rose and a few modern varieties, most rose oil is produced from Rosa damascena, the Damask Rose, sometimes called the oil rose. 

I suggest serving this as a dessert or a precursor to dessert at the end of the meal.  Or depending on your meal it could be served in between courses.


Lawrence Davis-Hollander is an ethnobotanist, plantsmen and gardener, former director and founder of the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, and currently a principal of DandelionGardening ArtsHe's an expert on heirloom vegetables, and a seed preservationist with an avid interest in herbs, spices, food, cooking, kitchen and ornamental gardens. His newest project revolves around sacred tobacco and its redistribution to native peoples. You can find him on .

lawrence davis-hollander
3/2/2011 12:51:16 PM

Hello Dave, Comb honey, or honeycomb is the honey right out of the hive with the beeswax, just as the bees make it--although I understand that sometimes it's pasteurized. When you eat honeycomb you eat the wax and the honey.


nebraska dave
2/25/2011 4:51:24 PM

Lawrence, does the honeycomb that you use in your serving suggestion have the honey in it or is it just the comb? I've never seen a food dish make in this manner before. It sounds quite unique. Have a great honeycomb recipe day.