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Honey Facts: What’s this raw and local honey hype all about?

23 Sep

Growing up with my dad as a backyard beekeeper in Ohio made me fall in love with honey and really learn to love and appreciate bees. Many many years later I worked for Marshall’s honey selling local raw honey at the farmers markets.  Through that work I learned a lot about honey, especially from my good friend and co-worker Hellenmae.  I found that what is true for all foods so holds true for honey: it is not all created equal.  Without going into too much detail and exhausting your eyes reading this I wanted to post a few basic facts about honey:

1. There is not just a “normal” kind of honey.  There is generally the most commercially popular kind of honey which is usually a willdflower blend, heavily clover based or all clover.  And as far as commercial honey goes that honey could be diluted with HFCS, water, or bees that were subsisting on sugar water instead of flower nectar and heavily laden with antibiotics that were pumped into the hives because bees get sick easily from stress (moving and lack of food source can case stress) and are very susceptible to disease, especially mites.  Plus as flowers start disappearing or the season isn’t quite right (when heavy rains come and wash away the nectar/food source for instance) beekeepers feed the bees sugar water to keep them alive.  That’s fine, but the honey produced from bees living on sugar water shouldn’t be marketed as honey.  And adding HFCS keeps the honey sweet and makes it go a lot further in terms of quantity but keeps the cost of the honey down (the same reason HFCS is used as a sweetener in everything is that it’s simply much much cheaper than sugar or other natural sweeteners)

2. Raw Honey Facts:

  • You have an array of flavors to choose from!  Whatever the bees are feeding on is translated into the honey.
  • Raw means that the honey hasn’t been heated or boiled (usually kept at 118F or below).  Honey is a byproduct of bee metabolism so it is used to being at high temperatures (the internal temperature of an active buzzing beehive) and is best to be kept around 85-90F if you want to maintain its liquid characteristics.  Keeping raw honey at cool temps will cause it to crystalize (that way you know it’s raw at least!) and the process will accelerate the cooler it is.  But crystallized honey is just as great and tasty plus less drippy.
  • Honey never spoils (honey was found, still good, in the pyramids of Egypt).
  • It’s a natural antibiotic and was used as such for centuries.
  • The propolis (tree resin collected by bees to help with building the hive) is a natural immune booster for use human beings.  Whenever I feel a cold coming or get on an airplane I dose up with honey to give my system a boost.
  • Raw honey contains a huge array of vitamins, minerals, and active enzymes.  The list keeps growing and not everybody agrees on what exactly is contained in each bit of honey, but it’s generally agreed upon that it contains vitamins A, E, C and all the B-vitamins except for B12.
  • This isn’t for certain or not either, but it’s speculated that the darker the honey the higher the mineral content.
  • Also the darker the honey generally the less sweet and more robust the flavor, and the lighter it is is generally sweeter and less robust in flavor.
  • Local Raw Honey is used to treat local pollen allergies.  You would want a wildflower blend (unless you know exactly what your allergic to) that comes from within 50 miles of where you live.  It works like a vaccine, inoculating your system with the pollen that causes you allergies so you can build a immune response. You have to continuing dosing on the honey, depending on the severity of your allergies; 1 Tbsp in the morning and a Tbsp in the evening.  One in the middle of the day wouldn’t hurt.
  • Remember to keep honey’s intrinsic healthiness intact you must ingest it raw, so putting it into coffee or tea in the effort to treat pollen allergies or boost your immune system will not work if the water is boiling.  Wait until it has cooled (a good rule of thumb is if your drink has cooled down to the temperature you’re able to start drinking it it then you’re fine to stir in the honey).

And if you’ve read this far and aren’t completely bonkers with honey information and want to learn more, you can read this compelling article by Andrew Schneider about imported Asian honey that was banned in Europe but flooding US grocery shelves. Andrew Schneider is a two-time Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter and the article is amazing!  Check it out:  http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/08/honey-laundering/
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