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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

West Virginia honey making a big buzz on national food scene

The Black Locust Honey from Appalachian Beekeeping Collective in Lewisburg was just named the South’s best food in Garden & Gun magazine’s 12th annual Made in the South Awards announced this month.

Honey from Appalachian Beekeeping Collective
Honey from Appalachian Beekeeping Collective

This West Virginia-made honey beat out nearly 1,000 other submissions to claim the title, which was judged by a national panel of food experts that included four-time James Beard award winner and TV food personality Andrew Zimmern.

“Since Garden & Gun is such a high-end, taste-maker type of periodical that rarely features West Virginia, this feels like a big win for the whole state,” said company spokeswoman Kate Asquith.

The honey’s history is a fascinating one.

The award-winning honey
The award-winning honey

In an effort to restore ecosystems damaged by mountaintop mining, the nonprofit Appalachian Headwaters formed in 2016 and immediately began replanting hundreds of thousands of trees on mined landscapes.

They were told bringing in pollinators could help speed up reforestation, so the group recruited local beekeepers to join their effort.

Turns out the area was already full of natural pollinators, but the partnership still thrived – resulting in the creation of the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, which helped local beekeepers start to earn a steady income from what was once largely just a hobby.

The number of beekeepers has since grown to more than a hundred spread across 17 West Virginia counties.

As for the honey itself?

Asquith said it’s a “forest-based” variety that’s different from most, offering a more distinctly robust flavor than typical wildflower versions. She said the Black Locust Honey that claimed Garden & Gun’s top honor includes notes of vanilla with just a hint of mint.

Or as judge Zimmern said: “It’s the extra special kind of honey you’d happily slather on a biscuit.”

You can order some to sample yourself at Even better, for every pound of honey sold the collective donates a pound to a local food bank. Win-win.

• • •

As a longtime food critic, there are few things I respect more than a restaurant publicly acknowledging its own shortcomings while making a promise to do better.

So I’m sending out mad props to Barkadas this week.

Demonstration at Appalachian Beekeeping Collective
Demonstration at Appalachian Beekeeping Collective

That Filipino-fusion restaurant in Fort Hill opened to high praise in early 2020 just weeks before restaurants were forced to shut down at the start of COVID. Despite the pandemic, it quickly gained a loyal following in the months that followed, but had slowly started to lose its luster for some fans.

While the service is almost always stellar, the food lately has not been. Not bad, mind you, just not as consistent or as good as it once was. It seemed like COVID-related staffing shortages were presenting challenges in the kitchen and those limitations showed in the food coming out of it.

I started hearing others make similar comments around town and secretly worried about the restaurant’s fate. But Barkadas not only listened, it also took the feedback to heart.

“We are making a comeback!” the restaurant proclaimed in a recent Facebook post. “Charleston, thank you for sticking by our side while we took some time to refocus on our staff and our product. Our commitment to you … is to make sure service and food are 10/10.”

Bees at Appalachian Beekeeping Collective
Bees at Appalachian Beekeeping Collective

To ensure that, they temporarily reduced hours while they retrained and hired new staff, perfected several recipes, and introduced a few new items and specials.

I really admire their commitment to improve and will definitely be supporting them with my business as they do.

Located at 100 Cantley Dr. at the foot of Fort Hill in Charleston, Barkadas’ current reduced hours are 5-9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

For more information, call 681-205-8051, check out or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

• • •

Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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