September is National Honey Month. Golden, sticky, and sweet, every drop of delicious honey comes from the tiny but extraordinarily industrious honeybee. These bees are not only important because they make honey, beeswax, propolis, and more, but they also play a crucial role in the agricultural market as pollinators of some major crops like apples, melons, squash, broccoli, and almonds. Approximately a third of the US diet is composed of bee-pollinated crops which is why the recent disappearance of so many honeybees is of grave concern.
Honey is an amazingly versatile product and can be found anywhere from beauty counters to gyms to medicine cabinets to kitchens. It’s is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture, thus giving your skin a natural glow and the perfect ingredient to add to your beauty routine. It’s also an effective and all-natural energy booster, containing approximately 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon with a low glycemic index. And honey has been used for centuries as a natural cough suppressant, helping to soothe throats and relieve irritation.
There are more than 300 different honey varietals found in the United States though it’s cultivated by bees from around the world. Some imported honeys are contaminated with heavy metals or antibiotics, or they are cut with additives like water or corn syrup. Additionally, most mass produced honey is processed and filtered to the point where little or no pollen remains, a practice ostensibly performed to improve the longevity of the honey. These producers claim that consumers want their honey to be clear. However, this treatment also removes many of the nutrients and beneficial properties (though there is some debate about this point). More deceptively, pollen is the only way to identify the source of honey, so countries with nefarious production practices filter it out and then transship it through another country so it’s origins are secret.
Here are a few ways to ensure that you’re getting a good, quality honey:
- Inspect the ingredients list for any additives, such as corn syrup or water
- Buy raw honey that is treated minimally and contains all of its nutrients and pollen
- Know the source of your honey - locally produced products in small batches are generally a safer bet
- Buy honey from a trusted retailer that specializes in whole, organic or gourmet foods - stores that hand-pick the products they carry and have rigorous standards
There are a number of small to medium-sized honey producers in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region. Beekeeping and home honey production is even becoming a popular pastime among the crowd that loves home brewing and urban gardening. At The Cookery Shops we’ve chosen to carry a few particularly outstanding flavors of honey that really blow our culinary minds.
Mike’s Hot Honey is a zingy chile pepper-infused honey created with the heat lover in mind. The honey comes from apiaries in New York and New Jersey and is infused and produced in Brooklyn, New York. Founder Mike Kurtz started offering this special honey to patrons of the pizza parlor where he apprenticed. Eventually, customers began to ask to purchase containers of the sweet heat, and when demand became so great, he finally started producing it in larger quantities for the rest of us!
Another honey that knocks our savory socks off is the Bourbon Infused Honey from Cloister Honey, a small batch producer out of North Carolina. Their tenderly attended bees produce raw wildflower honey which is then infused with Woodford Reserve pure Kentucky Bourbon. Wow! We dare you to try this on ice cream.
Finally, from handpicked blooms in Morocco, Shenandoah Valley Raw Honey makes an incredible saffron-infused variety. All of their honeys (clover, wildflower and saffron) are 100% raw and unprocessed from bees in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
What are your favorite uses for honey?
Sources and Resources:
Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC). Pollination. MAAREC Publication 5.2. February 2000.
MAAREC. Bees Are Beneficial. MAAREC Publication 1.1. February 2000.
Disappearance of honey bees: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/interview-may-berenbaum-154052613/?no-ist
Role of honey bees in US agriculture: http://www.agweb.com/blog/farmland_forecast_148/the_importance_of_bees_in_agriculture/
Honey for Skin Care: http://www.honey.com/honey-at-home/honeys-natural-benefits/natures-skin-care/
Honey for Sports: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/nutrition/honey-the-facts/5285.html
Research on use of honey for coughs: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22419319
Honey’s “blunted” glycimic index research and affects on appetite, appetite-regulating hormones, and energy levels: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21504975
Research on allergies and honey: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24188941