All About Honey

The story of honey is older than history itself. An 8,000-year-old cave painting1 in Spain depicts honey harvesting, and we know it's been used for food, medicine and more by cultures all over the world since.

But honey isn't about humans. It's the natural product made from bees—one of our planet's most important animals. Honey bees visit millions of blossoms in their lifetimes, making pollination of plants possible and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive.

Lucky for us, bees make more honey than their colony needs, and beekeepers remove the excess and bottle it. Just like they've been doing since the beginning of time.

Source:

1 Ullmann, Fritz (2003). Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. John Wiley & Sons

HOW HONEY IS MADE

Made Naturally by Nature

From Bee

Honey starts as flower nectar collected by bees, which gets broken down into simple sugars stored inside the honeycomb. The design of the honeycomb and constant fanning of the bees' wings causes evaporation, creating sweet liquid honey. Honey's color and flavor varies based on the nectar collected by the bees. For example, honey made from orange blossom nectar might be light in color, whereas honey from avocado or wildflowers might have a dark amber color.

To Hive

On average, a hive will produce about 65 pounds of surplus honey each year2. Beekeepers harvest it by collecting the honeycomb frames and scraping off the wax cap that bees make to seal off honey in each cell. Once the caps are removed, the frames are placed in an extractor, a centrifuge that spins the frames, forcing honey out of the comb.

To Home

After the honey is extracted, it’s strained to remove any remaining wax and other particles. Some beekeepers and bottlers might heat the honey to make this process easier, but that doesn't alter the liquid's natural composition.

After straining, it's time to bottle, label and bring it to you. It doesn't matter if the container is glass or plastic, or if the honey is purchased at the grocery store or farmers’ market. If the ingredient label says “pure honey,” nothing was added from bee to hive to bottle.

Source:

2 Abbott, Charles Nash (1881), British Bee Journal & Bee-keepers Adviser, Volume 31.

FORMS OF HONEY

Delicious in any form

Most of us know honey as liquid in a bottle, but there are lots of other ways to enjoy this natural nectar. Comb, crystallized, liquid, whipped and beyond—it just depends on what texture and usage you're looking for. Between the vast array of varietals and diversity of forms, there's a perfect kind of honey out there for every occasion. 

HONEY BENEFITS

In addition to being an amazing natural sweetener, honey has benefits that have gone largely unknown. It's a wholesome sore-throat soother, a natural energy booster and more.

Nutrition

It's not just versatile, varied and delicious. Research has shown that honey contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants3. Flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, are found in honey3. The amount and type of these compounds depends largely on the floral source3.    

Sweetener

Honey is sweet—that’s a given. And it adds a special touch to almost every recipe. It can be your secret ingredient that's always revealing new possibilities. Many people think of honey as a drizzle in desserts or a topping for toast. But more and more, honey is being recognized as a pantry staple. It gives your recipes unbeatable flavor and unexpected functional benefits. From balancing flavors to providing moisture to baked goods, honey excels in a slew of tasks—all from one little bottle and only one ingredient. As honey is slightly sweeter than sugar, you can use less to achieve the same amount of sweetness in a dish. When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. For baked goods:

  • Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.

  • Add about 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.

  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning.

Natural Energy

Honey is a natural source of carbohydrates, providing 17 grams per tablespoon, which makes it ideal for your working muscles. Since carbohydrates are the primary fuel the body uses, honey can help maintain muscle glycogen, also known as stored carbohydrates, which gives athletes the boost they need when they need it most.

Cough Suppressant

Honey has been used for centuries to help alleviate symptoms of the common cold, and now research confirms this approach for children ages one and older. Honey offers an effective and natural alternative to over-the-counter cough medicine4. Though time is the most important healer of a sore throat, a spoonful of honey can help relieve the irritation4.

Important Reminder

Honey is a versatile and wholesome food for older children and adults. Honey may be introduced into a child’s diet after the age of one, but not before4, 5.   Source: 3 National Honey Board, “Nutritional Benefits of Honey.” Sept 2008. 4 Paul IM, et al. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(12) 5 Cohen HA, et al. Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: d double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Pediatrics, Vol 130, Number 3  

HONEY VARIETALS

The color, flavor and even aroma of honey differs, depending on the nectar of flowers visited by the bees that made it. There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States alone, each originating from a different floral source.

Their shades range from nearly colorless to dark brown, while flavors go from subtle to bold; even the aroma of honey may be reminiscent of the flower. As a general rule, the flavor of light-colored honeys is milder, and the flavor of darker-colored honey is stronger. Varietal honeys may be best compared to wine in terms of climatic changes.

Even the same flower blooming in the same location may produce slightly different nectar from year to year, depending on temperature and rainfall. Included above are just a few examples of varietals that you might not have known existed.  For help finding a honey supplier or a specific varietal, visit the Honey Locator