CAMBRIDGE - After Mary Canning endured the death of her mother in the late 1990s and her first husband in 2004, the former WGBH employee went looking for a lively career. “What’s more alive than bees and honey?’’ she asks. “I think people crave things that are alive and things that are beautiful.’’
Canning, 50, began working with a beekeeper, a family friend in Central Massachusetts. After two years, she started tending her own bees on 18 acres of land she owns in Warwick. Then, despite having no retail experience, the Cambridge resident took her love of bees and opened Follow the Honey, a shop near Harvard Square. Opening day, Aug. 20, was selected to coincide with National Honey Bee Day. Follow the Honey is a family affair: Canning’s husband, Ingo Winzer, is her business partner, and her daughter, Caneen, designed the store and website.
The shop carries honey from local vendors, as well as varieties from around the country and the world. Canning says her goal is to have honey from each state. The store also offers everything bee- and honey-related, from beginner beekeeping equipment to jewelry to kits for making honey wine.
To give customers an idea of what it takes to make honey and to spark conversation about the food, Canning has live bees on display and honey on tap that can be dispensed for purchase.
The type of honey on tap rotates often, depending on availability, and Canning says she plans to install two additional taps during the year. Therefore, one can be for Massachusetts honey, one for honey from another state, and one for an international honey. Canning says she also hopes to be able to harvest honey from her own bees in Warwick this year under a Follow the Honey label.
Canning spent more than a dozen years at WGBH as research and production support on “Frontline,’’ and as an associate producer for “Nova.’’ Now she has a sweeter gig, selling raw honey, which means it has not been heated to more than 120 degrees. The heating process for supermarket-variety honey, says Canning, makes it “clear and pretty’’ but destroys the food’s natural enzymes, amino acids, and minerals.
Raw honey can crystallize and firm up, but Canning says it does not mean it is bad or expired. Any honey that has hardened can be liquefied by dipping the container in a pan of simmering water.
“[Raw honey is] a very vital food. It’s the same way in that people think about, ‘I want to get that fresh mesclun greens from the farmers’ market,’ or whatever,’’ she says. “It’s right off the vine or they just pulled it out of the earth, and if you got [greens] over-boiled in water in a can, it would be a completely different food choice.’’
Follow the Honey 1132 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-7356, www.followthehoney.com