No food can match honey in terms of longevity. Here’s proof: in 2003, archaeologists found a 3,000 year-old honey while inspecting the contents of the tomb of a deceased Egyptian pharaoh. It was still edible.
We call honey liquid gold because it is very valuable. It is nutritious, does not spoil easily, and has many medicinal and culinary uses. We all know the story of how we end up having this sweet liquid: flowers produce a sugar-rich liquid called nectar to attract pollinators including bees. In exchange for feasting on nectar, bees – by hopping on one flower to the next – help pollinate plants. Once back in their hives, bees regurgitate the nectar and deposit it inside honeycombs. Beekeepers harvest this storage to give us honey.
- One pound of honey is produced only after gathering nectar from two million flowers.
- The honey bee is the only insect that produces food we can eat.
- Instead of gold, Ancient Romans used honey to pay taxes.
- According to Celtic beliefs, bees possess a secret, otherworldly wisdom.
- Honey has antiseptic properties which is why it is used as a dressing for wounds. In the movie Equalizer, we saw Robert McCall (played by Denzel Washington) apply honey on his wound after he was shot in the leg.
Honey Buying Guide
When buying honey, it is important to know how different types of honey vary from one another in terms of taste and aroma, and how supermarket or grocery honey differs from real raw honey.
Types of honey
Honey has three categories based on where the bees extract the nectar – single-origin, multi-flower, and local. As the name suggests, a single-origin means the bees collected nectar from one specific plant. If bees were collecting nectar from a variety of plants, the honey harvested from the honeycomb is called multi-flower. Lastly, bees collecting nectar in just one specific location produces honey called local.
You will notice that the color of raw honey varies. It has something to do with the type of plant from which the nectar was extracted.
- Dark-colored honey – This has a strong aroma but less sweet. There is also a noticeable tangy, bitter, malty flavor. Avocado, buckwheat, fir, and pine honey are some examples of dark variety honey.
- Light-colored honey – This has a mild, floral flavor and the color ranges from light yellow to golden orange. Two common examples of light-colored honey are acacia and clover honey.
Condition and quality
Many consumers buy bottled honey found in stores, groceries, and supermarkets thinking they bought raw, unfiltered honey. Most of the time, they are misled.
Texas A&M University professor Vaughn Bryant conducted a study and discovered that most of the honey sold in groceries and supermarkets do not qualify as ‘honey’ because pollen was removed using ultra-filtering for the sake of appearance. Without the pollen, there is no sure way to determine the honey came from bees, and more importantly, what country or what location the honey came from. Other manufacturers add artificial ingredients so that raw honey results in a bigger yield. Others include the word ‘honey’ in the product label to confuse buyers into thinking they are buying honey when in fact, what they are selling is an artificial sweetener.
There are two things you can do. First, read the label clearly. If you are unsure, approach the store’s helpdesk and ask if what they are selling is raw honey, processed honey, or honey-flavored sweetener/syrup.
The best option is to buy in a farmers market or a specialty store selling natural food items. This has been vetted by the study conducted by Prof. Bryant as a good venue for buying real raw, unadulterated honey.
Honey Production & Farming in Texas
Texas does not require an apiary permit or registration. This, and other factors, influence the steady rise of beekeeping in the state.
According to Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas is sixth in the US in honey production in 2019. There are three groups of beekeepers in Texas: hobbyists, sideliners, and commercial beekeepers. Each one has an important role in the production of honey in Texas.
Hobbyists are backyard beekeepers with less than 10 hives. This allows them to meet Texas’ agriculture exemption for property taxes. The main goals of hobbyists usually are (1) to produce honey for their household and (2) to share and/or sell locally.
Sideliners have more hives than hobbyists, usually somewhere between 50 to 250. They are classified as sideliners because they have a different full-time job.
Commercial beekeepers have 500 hives, even more. Commercial beekeepers are not just responsible for producing a large volume of honey, but they also have an active role in pollinating crops in Texas, from the watermelon fields in the Rio Grande Valley to cotton plantations and other gardens in Texas and its neighboring states.
According to a March 2019 report by the US Department of Agriculture, there are 132,000 honey-producing colonies in Texas that produced 7.4 million pounds of honey in 2019. North Dakota has 550,000 and is currently the top producer in the US. The total production of honey in the US in 2019 is at 154 million pounds.
Texas is not the top producer of honey but many of the bees in top-producing states bring their bees in Texas during the winter because bees need the mild winter climate to survive. In East Texas, the climate is ideal for a prolonged honey flow that begins in February or March and this can last until the end of the year. Honey flow in Central Texas happens in spring coinciding with the major wildflower blooms in the state. In West Texas, there are fewer nectar sources.
The main problem of beekeepers in Texas is Varroa mites which is the reason why colonies collapse.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Honey is known to last for many years. It is one of the many amazing qualities of this natural food. This is the reason why honey does not need preservatives or any artificial additives. These chemicals are present in products that pretend to be honey, and these are known by many different names: artificial honey; honey-flavored corn syrup; honey-flavored; and quite plainly, an artificial sweetener. These products, typically diluted with high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners, contain not just brown rice syrup, glucose syrup, dyes, flavors, and flavor enhancers. Others, including substandard, low-quality honey, even contain chemicals like the carcinogenic antibiotic chloramphenicol used against foulbrood disease, as well as antibiotics and heavy metals like lead.
Honey is sold in containers with resealable lids. Some companies use glass bottles while other companies prefer plastic bottles as storage for their product. You can buy honey in a squeeze bottle which dispenses honey easily and without the use of a honey dipper. The packaging of honey includes a label that provides the consumer with important information about the product.
There are many ways to use honey to improve the flavor of food. You can use honey to drizzle toasts or your fruit and nuts snack. You can add honey to hot drinks like tea, coffee, milk as an alternative sweetener instead of sugar. You can use it for making sweets, pastries, and other snacks and desserts. Honey is also used in making sauces (honey mustard), dipping (hummus), and salad dressing (honey-lemon and balsamic honey salad dressing). Use honey lacquer to baste vegetables and meat. If you want your grilled or roasted food to have a crispy coating and golden crust, use honey.
Keep in a jar or container that seals securely, and store in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight. There is no need for honey for refrigeration since room temperature does not have any adverse effect on its quality and condition.
Make your own honey-sweetened lemonade:
It is always a good idea to have something cool, fresh, and all-natural to drink stored in the refrigerator especially when it is hot outside and we need to feel hydrated and refreshed. A plain lemonade can be a bit sour, so why not pair lemon with honey to make a sweet, healthy drink that has no overpowering sweetness. Making home-made honey-sweetened lemonade is good instead of buying bottled drinks or using powdered juice. If there are some left in the pitcher, you can use it later if you want to have a light cocktail in the evening. Just add gin or vodka!
6-8 servings (six cups)
6 cups of water
1/2 cup honey (add more for desired sweetness)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice – from about 4-7 large lemons
If you want to add another layer of flavor, you can put mint leaves or other flavorful herbs like rosemary or thyme
Step 1: Prepare the lemonade. Wash lemonade, slice it in half and extract the juice by squeezing it by hand or using a lemon presser. Remove the seed from the juice so that you don’t get to swallow it later.
Step 2: Prepare the honey. If the honey is runny, go ahead and mix it with the lemon juice and water. If honey is firm, pour 1 cup water into a saucepan and put it on the stove. Set to low fire and warm the honey until it is runny so that it dissolves well in water.
Step 3: Chill and serve with ice
Step 4: Garnish with herb (optional)