Since The Naturalist's Notebook opened for the season, visitors have been asking, "When does your honey-tasting tournament begin?" Many of them can't wait to dip their ice-cream sticks into jars of carefully selected honeys from around the world, ponder the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences, and then check off on a paper ballot which honey they like best. It is an exercise in democracy, sensory stimulation, critical judgment and pollinator appreciation. It's also a great sport. Honey-tasting, not boxing, deserves the famous nickname "the sweet science."
Our Sweet 16 competition resembles the NCAA college basketball tournament, with seedings, brackets and a single-elimination format. Two honeys per day go head-to-head, or jar-to-jar. The 2009 champion was Washington State Fireweed, which defeated New York Basswood in the final. Last year Maine Wild Raspberry edged Pennsylvania Alfalfa for the title. This year's event includes all four of those honeys as well as some exotic newcomers such as Brazilian Killer Bee, Oregon Wild Huckleberry and, uh, Massachusetts Breakwind. Should be interesting.
Here are the first-round matchups:
Bracket 1 Maine Blueberry vs. Washington Fireweed Italian Sunflower vs. Arizona Mesquite
Bracket 2 Maryland Bamboo (Japanese Knotweed) vs. Pennsylvania Alfalfa California Eucalyptus vs. Colorado Clover
Bracket 3 Maine Wild Raspberry vs. Florida Tupelo Massachusetts Breakwind vs. Texas Guajillo
Bracket 4 Brazilian Killer Bee vs. New York Basswood Oregon Wild Huckleberry vs. California Avocado
Follow the results here on the blog and on The Naturalist's Notebook's Facebook page. Or come in and get your own taste of August Madness.
Answer to the Last Puzzler:
It is TRUE that one way to tell moths from butterflies is that butterflies have thin antennae that are club-shaped at the end while moths tend to have feathery or comb-like antennae.
A Will Shortz special: If you take the word AUTHOR, add one letter and rearrange all of the letters, you can spell the name of a famous naturalist author. Who is he?