What is Honey?
Bees, flowers, nectar, pollination, honey. A beautiful circle of life and a necessity so great that humans would be incapable of surviving without bees.
No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no plants. No plants, no animals. You see where I’m going with this.
Honey is like Mother Nature’s gift to this natural cycle. So, exactly how does it come about?
Flowers need to create new seeds for the next generation of plants to flourish. For this process to happen, it needs to pollinate/fertilise. This occurs when the pollen from the flowers comes in contact with its stigma.
Unfortunately, flowers can’t do this on its own. It needs the help of insects to complete this process for them.
As a way to attract the insects to them, they produce nectar, a sugary fluid which insects love. As they land on the flowers to forage for nectar, the pollen attaches itself to the insect with the hope that the insects will transfer it to the stigma for them.
Bees love nectar, and they eat the nectar straight from the flower. They do also, however, bring nectar back to their hives to store as bee bread for the season when the weather is too harsh to find nectar. This is their back up plan essentially for the future.
The process by which they transport the nectar back to the hives is fascinating.
The nectar is mixed with the saliva in their mouths which has an enzyme that breaks down the sugar. This process is important because it makes it bacteria resistant. It is then stored in their abdomen until they get back to the hive.
At the hive, the processed nectar is now passed onto the house bees. Their job is to dehydrate the nectar by fanning them with their wings. This is then kept in each hexagonal cell and capped with wax.
This is how honey made in its natural form.
Different Types of Honey
No doubt in your lifetime you would have come across many different types of honey.
The cheap squeezable bottles that are mass produced have a sickly consistency in smell, colour and taste, thanks to its highly processed procedure. Like all staple supermarket products, ensuring that every bottle is precisely the same is paramount.
Honey, however, can’t by nature, be the same. It is affected by so many things that the output is impossible to control without commercial manipulation.
It’s affected by the location, the weather, the flowers, the pollens, where the bees have been, cross-pollination and the list goes on.
What is Raw Honey?
Raw honey is honey that has not been heated to the point of pasteurisation. Much like milk, honey is put through a heating process to omit its natural enzymes, bacteria and minerals. It is honey in its purest form.
Pure Honey v Raw Honey
Pure does not mean raw. Pure means that it is 100% honey and with nothing added to it like corn syrup or added sugars. Pure honey however also means that it could be a combination of many different types of honey, so you’re not always sure where it actually hails from.
What Does Organic Honey Mean?
Organic honey is honey produced from plants that are pesticide free. The plants have not been chemically treated.
Organic, however, does not mean that it has not been pasteurised. In fact, most commercial organic honey has gone through some form of heating process.
What is Unfiltered Honey?
Filtering honey is to remove all particles from the nectar. The filtering process can even filter out pollen in its minute scale.
However, to do that, they need to heat the honey so that it becomes thinner and thus allow the filtration process to take place. This, therefore, means they are no longer raw.
What Does Honey Taste Like?
Texture: Perhaps the best way to describe the texture of honey is that it is like molasses.
Obviously different varieties will have a wide range of consistencies. It can be super thick and sometimes even difficult to scoop out, or it can be on the runny side and easier to handle.
The colour of honey will also vary some a light golden brown to a dark caramel finish.
Flavour: Tasting honey is like tasting wine. Its depth of flavour varies widely as mentioned above, and perhaps the overarching word to best describe honey would be sweet.
But that’s just a generic way to describe it. Along with it comes so many other flavours as you let the honey do its work. Breath through your nose and let the honey sink into your pallet.
There are many words to describe what you may encounter. Can you taste caramel or butterscotch? Does it have floral or astringent note? Is it citrusy with a touch of lemon or orange blossom? Is it super sweet that it takes over any other flavour?
The best way to taste the difference in honey is to try a few different varieties, and you’ll be surprised at the breadth of flavours from one honey to another. However, like wine, don’t taste too many as, after a while, they will start to taste the same.
What Goes Well with Honey?
Fruit and Vegetables
Apple, apricot, banana, blackberry, blood orange, blueberry, carrot, coconut, dragon fruit, elderberry, fig, ginger, grapefruit, guava, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kiwi, nectarine, papaya, peach, pear, pumpkin, rhubarb, strawberry, sweet potato
Herbs, Nuts and Spices
Allspice, almonds, chestnut, cinnamon, clove, cumin, mustard seed, nutmeg, rosemary, saffron, sumac, thyme, walnuts
Protein and Other
Brie, buffalo mozzarella, bulgur, butter, camembert, chickpea, duck, farro, fish, freekeh, goat cheese, lentil, parmigiano reggiano, salmon, sausage, shrimp, turkey, wild rice, yoghurt
How to Use Honey in Salads?
Perhaps the most common way to use honey in salads would be in salad dressings. It’s amazing what a small dollop of honey will do to a homemade dressing as it truly transforms a sometimes mediocre tasting recipe to one that is really tasty.
Honey helps to balances astringency, tartness and bitterness. While we still want those flavours to come through as it adds depth, it can sometimes be overpowering and needs to be tamed.
Roasting and grilling fruit and vegetables basted in honey is just heaven: think honey balsamic roasted figs or tahini honey-roasted cauliflower.
Add them to some fresh mizuna leaves or arugula and topped with seeds and nuts. Or accompanied by the creamy smoothness of goat cheese or grilled halloumi.
Salad Dressings with Honey
If you love gorgeous, aromatic spices, this Spiced Yoghurt Dressing with Honey is exactly what you need! Creamy, sweet and tangy all in the one recipe.
Honey Seeded Mustard Dressing is a crowd pleaser! Mixed through with some sweetness as well as some citrus to balance out the flavours, this is an easy to make salad dressing.
This Tahini Maple Syrup Honey Dressing is a gorgeous combination of a slightly bitter sesame-based product with some rich, sweet honey. The combination is simply explosive!
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