Monday, October 27, 2008

Inquiring Minds

Zilla needs more information than I thought would be interesting in yesterday's post. Who knew that honey could be so fascinating? Nevertheless, here goes.

An Account of what I Know About Honey

Honey is the by-product of the bee's harvest of pollen and nectar so it stands to reason that the product would reflect the inputs. From a beekeeper's point of view there are two basic harvests, spring and fall. Spring/summer honey is generally a lighter color and has a lighter flavor (here is a picture of spring honey), whereas fall honey is darker and more strongly flavored (I'm looking for jar and will post it as soon as possible). Most commercial honey is either spring/summer honey or a mix of the two. Honey is graded for color and the lighter honey is always rated higher.

Some commercial and small farm honey claims to be clover honey or citrus honey and they may well be, but I've found that I can't really control where my bees forage. Perhaps I'm not trying hard enough. I've seen lavender honey and apple blossom honey advertised, but I remain skeptical. In order to achieve fair labeling, a bee keeper would have to add honey supers exactly when the blooming is the most prevalent species available and remove them immediately after pollination or when the blooms begin to wane. They would also have to know that the bees only sought nectar in that orchard or field and didn't go to the next field for a little basil, sunflower, or oak tree pollination. Managing all this is more than a little difficult. So I wouldn't pay extra for an exotic honey unless you have tasted it first and find the claims to be true. With all that nay-saying, I do have to say that I can taste subtle differences in honey. As we harvest frames, I can generally tell whether the honey is clover inspired or fruit tree inspired, but I have tasted a lot of honey over many years. As far as seasonal variances, you don't need acute taste buds. The differences are dramatic.

Now, natural medicine advocates say that if you have fall or spring allergies, take a teaspoon of local, raw honey from the season each day. So, if you are allergic to fall, take a teaspoon of fall honey each day and the following fall you should have fewer symptoms. Go find a local apiary, get some raw, wildflower honey, and be beealthy. You also get that feel good sensation for supporting a local, small farmer. Why does the honey have to be raw and local?

Raw honey is minimally processed - no heat and minimal filtering. As my brother says, "Give me some of that honey with the legs and wings in it." Honestly, you don't want bee parts in your honey, but you should try to find natural honey in its bee produced perfection. Finding local honey is just as important as finding raw honey, not for the carbon saved, but for the health benefits. If you live in Mississippi and you have spring allergies you aren't reacting to almond blossoms or California wildflower blossoms, you are reacting to pecan, oak, or Mississippi wildflowers. Dose accordingly.

Bon Appetit


HOA Mgr Lady said...

I am current going to a Wound Center at my local hospital to have a chronic leg would treated and they are using honey! It's called Medihoney and it looks feels and tastes like honey who knew?

zilla said...


I didn't even know honey was harvested more than once a year, let alone that fall honey is darker and tastes different.

If I hadn't asked about flavor, I would never have learned about the allergy remedy. I am going to Oryana tomorrow in search of local fall honey. If they don't have it, they'll know where to send me. In the spring, I'll go find spring honey.

I hate seasonal allergies because they seem to make me vulnerable to virus.

Can you stand just one more question from me? :-)

I'm wondering if it would be okay to dose Zenzi with honey in the same manner, or whether honey is a known no-no for dogs. She has been horribly allergic this fall, even worse than she was in the spring, with red, itchy, weepy sclera and itchy ears red from scratching. I don't mind giving her the eye drops; but, dang, those ear drops smell horrible, and every time I finish rubbing them in she shakes her head and gets them all over me!

(I think if I asked Zenzi's vet this question he would look at me funny and then offer to take MY temperature :-))

Wisteria said...

We have given honey, with great success, to calves who are struggling with scours. The antibiotic properties are amazing.

I would guess dogs could handle honey in small doses. The only fear would be a fat dog. If it works let me know. We don't have any animals who are allergic, so I've never tried it. My mother, who is allergic to spring, believes the honey works. My dad thinks daily honey helps with his arthritis, though this seems far fetched. Bee stings are best for that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Very interesting information. And I've heard similar things about specific types of honey before, though I notice a difference in colour from one of our local vendors (and they let you taste their different varieties).

I have another question. I heard something about part of the bee problem might be caused by overharvest of fall honey and replacing honey with corn syrup in the hives for winter nourishment of the bees. It made sense (that corn syrup would not be as nutritious for the bees) but I wondered if you wanted to comment on that.

Oh, and at some future point, I would love to hear your advice on substituting honey for other sweetners in baking.