What’s the deal with honey these days? Plus: sweetest of giveaways!

Sticky, fragrant honey has got to be nature’s most interesting sweetener. Did you realize that the scent, taste, and color of honey reflects the flora from which the bees collect their nectar? Isn’t that intriguing? Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that fact just make you want to go out and gather up a selection of bottles of honey, grab a spoon, and just taste the different flavors? Well, before you do that, keep reading: If you took the time to do this, you’d notice that honey from pine forests and alfalfa fields tends to be more amber in color, with a stronger, richer flavor–that is, if you could find some to taste. Honey from orange blossoms or clover is lighter in taste and color. Lavender honey captures that herb’s distinctive perfume, and manuka has a toffee-like quality. We’re honey geeks in our family, and we prize our local linden honey (made from pollen from linden, or basswood trees) for its flowery perfume and taste. It’s our absolute favorite, and we grin like fools when the linden trees around us are in full bloom, and buzzing with bees. We’re thinking about linden honey.

honey1

Honey is more than just a gooey sweetener. Here’s a cool thing that you may not be aware of: raw honey (thus, it hasn’t been heat-treated) contains a plethora of enzymes and antioxidants, and has antibacterial properties, to boot! Manuka honey (produced in New Zealand and made by the bees that pollinate the native manuka bush) is the only honey so far that is widely acknowledged to have proven medicinal effects, but earlier this year a study at the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine found that heather honey also killed MRSA microbes and three other strains of pathogenic bacteria.

But that’s not all: raw honey is being used to treat hard-to-heal wounds. Several studies support the traditional use of honey as a cough soother. Studies also have been done that show that honey is faster in treating small, non-serious burns than certain antibiotic ointments. Pretty cool, eh?

For such a sweet and delicious and nutrient-packed and miraculous substance, honey in America has become quite a puzzlement. Recent studies question whether the honey available in most stores can even be called honey or not. The problem seems to lie within the following conundrum: In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered (thus, no longer containing pollen) can no longer be referred to as “honey.”

However. Having set that standard, the FDA doesn’t check honey sold here to see if it contains pollen. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

If honey is put through the ultra-filtering process, it will not have pollen in it.  The thing is . . . beekeepers insist that the traditional filtering process will filter out errant bee parts, bits of debris from hives, and wax (which you don’t want floating in your honey, it’s true) but will leave the pollen intact, and that there’s absolutely no reason to submit it to ultra-filtering. Ultra-filtering is a high-tech procedure, adapted from the Chinese, where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey.

Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News that there was no reason to remove all the pollen from honey. This is what he said: “I don’t know of any U.S. producer that would want to do that. Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey,” Jensen said. “It is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law.”

photo credit foodsafetynews.com

Other problems in the honey supply: The Chinese have reportedly dumped tons of their honey-–some containing illegal antibiotics–on the U.S. market for years. But that’s not all. Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a complete lack of pollen has been found on U.S. grocery shelves, as well. You can read about all this and more in the report by Food Safety News.

Such a puzzlement, eh? So what is a consumer to do, when faced with the myriad choices of “honey” (can it even be called that?) available on the grocer’s shelf? Give up on the honey? Turn to . . . what . . . strawberry jam? Personally, it makes me a bit grumpy that such a wonderfully natural and completely delicious and beneficial-in-so-many-ways food has been messed with, and messed up like this. I hope it makes you grumpy, too, my Gentle (yet principled) Reader.

Here’s the thing: raw honey is a perfect substance, straight from the hives. It doesn’t need messing with. It doesn’t require ultra-filtering or any additions or subtractions. It needs nothing. The only risk involved with eating raw honey would be for babies, and it’s not recommended that children under the age of one year eat it. We slather it generously on our bread, we stir it into our tea, we eat it by the spoonful, and we use it in yummy recipes like this one.

Sugar water is a quick energy source for new bees.

We feed our new bees sugar water for a few days, until they find the food sources in our neighborhood.

We keep bees at our place, three hives full, and the raw honey that we take from our bees every summer is absolutely perfect. It doesn’t need pasteurizing; it doesn’t really even need straining; it is absolutely perfect the way it is. Do you know how much processing is necessary with raw honey? This much: We remove the frames full of honey from the hives (leaving some behind to feed the bees through the winter, natch’). We carry them to the house (licking up the drips all the way). We scrape the honeycomb (full of raw honey) into a great big tub extractor, fitted with a bit of cheesecloth, to take out any bits of wax or debris. We leave it there for days. The honey drips and dribbles into a big vat beneath, and when it is finished, we put it into clean jars. That’s it. It’s that simple.

And that’s all that is necessary. Raw honey does not need to be tampered with. But. Hmph. So . . . what is an informed consumer, determined to get good real honey, to do?

Keep reading, all is not lost:

Food Safety News purchased over 60 tubs, bottles, and jars of honey from 10 states and tested them for pollen. Remember that removing pollen is not necessary, and just shows that the honey has gone through the ultra-filtration process. They found mixed results. Big surprise.

Here’s the bad news: 76 to 100 percent of the honey samples from stores like Wal-greens, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, Safeway and Kroger’s, had absolutely no pollen, indicating that it was ultra-filtered and therefore no longer could be called honey, therefore having hidden (or at least not disclosed) origins. To this, I say: Hmmmph! 🙁

But there’s some good news, too, never fear: they found that 100% of the samples from “natural” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and local farmer’s markets had the full amount of pollen in them. I like that percentage much better, don’t you? So what’s the takeaway from all this? Delicious news: you have choices in the matter.

Keep buying honey, but choose your honey carefully. I have not purchased honey for years, because my husband and my dad both keep bees, so we have a steady supply of perfect raw honey. Buy your honey at “natural” grocery stores or farmer’s markets, where you can trust that what you are buying is, indeed, honey.

OR . . . here’s an idea. Do your homework and preparations now, and plan to add a hive of bees to your place next spring. I wrote a guest post for Jill over at The Prairie Homestead all about this. She will be publishing it tomorrow, on May 14th. I’ve outlined eight simple steps to get you started with having your own hive of bees. Be sure to click over to her website tomorrow to check it out! Keeping your own bees is an adventure and a really fascinating thing to do, with sweet, sweet rewards.

And by the way . . . speaking of giveaways . . . I have a new giveaway for you to enter! My friend Jamie over at Harvest Home Farm has given me three darling bottles of infused honeys to give away. Click on the Harvest Home Farm link if you have no idea what infused honeys are. You are in for a treat! I am adding a jar of our own raw clover honey, too, to the package. And . . . my dad has included a bitty jar of his coveted linden honey, too, just because he’s a great guy that way. This is one sweet giveaway, Gentle Readers! I hope you enter. It will take you only a minute or two, and it is set up so you can continue to enter every day, increasing your chances to win. Here’s what you could win:

Four bottles of honey: clover honey from our farm, and three jars of infused honey from Harvest Home Farm.

Four bottles of honey: clover honey from our farm, and three jars of infused honey from Harvest Home Farm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

By the way . . . the winner of the quart of Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil is Alexandra L, from North Carolina, and her coconut oil is winging its way to her this very moment. Way to go, Alexandra, and thank you so much, all of you who entered that giveaway, and tweeted about it, and shared it, and got excited about it with me.

You’re the best! *smooch*

 

I’m gonna share this post with Jill and her friends over at The Prairie Homestead. Join me!

 

 

141 thoughts on “What’s the deal with honey these days? Plus: sweetest of giveaways!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I have friends who swear by eating the local honey in order to treat their allergies, too, Fran. GOOD STUFF!

  1. Ariel Schultz

    Love to trade links with you and have your give-a-ways & products listed in my links page. Have patients and clients in North America who would be interested in your offerings. I always want the best people and the best products listed. Good Blessings.

    P.S. I am blessed to live in Israel in the Golan Hights next to and
    over looking a nature reserve lots of bees and nature here !

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Ariel,
      Please do share my giveaways with your readers. Sounds like you live in a gorgeous area of the world.

  2. Diane F

    I buy raw honey by the gallon and eat many ways–right from the spoon, on hot buttered toast, corn bread muffins are delicious with it.

  3. Julie

    I have bees on my property too but I’m not the beekeeper though am hoping to become more involved. So I have a little honey from our hives. After our winter it was sooooo sad to find all of our hives decimated, every bee died. Fortunately I was able to sell a couple of fleeces and buy new bees. I use honey everyday as a sweetener for cooking, baking etc. I recently learned that we shouldn’t bake with honey as it destroys enzymes, not sure about that. Thanks for the great giveaway.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks Julie. We lost all our hives this year, too. It’s a sad, sad problem, and expensive one, too, with each package of bees now costing more than $100.00. A lot of beekeepers just can’t afford to replace their bees every year.

  4. Beth H

    What a great giveaway. Many years ago a doctor friend of ours cut himself with a chainsaw and was in bed with a bad infection that his self-prescribed antibiotics would not cure. He called us to see what he should take and my husband said to put raw honey on the wound. Two days later he was back in the office, totally healed.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m going to try to remember this, Beth, the next time one of the kids has a cut! Raw honey is amazing stuff!

  5. Pat Hopkins

    I too lost my bees over the winter and so far haven’t found another swarm but keep hoping…..yes, the plight of bees is so serious, and so many people aren’t aware of it…..thank you for all your posts Amy as I do enjoy them……hugs……

  6. Samantha

    Our family are raw honey fans…I use it with my tea in the morning, we love it in smoothies or baked goods. Almond Butter, Raw Honey and Coconut Oil freezer fudge is our favorite treat for special occasions.

  7. Michelle in OK

    I came over from The Prairie Homestead. I enjoyed your article very much… But step 1 should be, “convince the love of your life that bees are not a danger to your children.” I’m fighting an uphill battle, though as we twice have had a wild hive infiltrate something and both times my children were stung. He’ll come around, though… Eventually. 😉

    I usually use raw honey (I buy at a local feed store) in my tea or drizzled over baked carrots.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Michelle, you can do it, girlfriend! Here’s an anecdote, if it helps, from my own life: when I was a kid, my dad ALWAYS had a hive or two of bees in the backyard, and we lived on a corner lot in town. Now and then we’d step on a bee and get stung, because we had clover in the grass that the bees loved, and we never wore shoes in the summertime, when they would have been busy in that clover. But that could happen whether you have bees or not. We were taught to never play directly in front of the hives (bees will get testy if you park yourself in their way) and we definitely respected that! None of my kids have ever been bothered by bees, or even stung, despite the fact that we have kept them for years. Except for my son Timothy, who was out working in the garden closest to the beehives one day. I think the bees started to buzz around him and he left. It’s just not a big deal. It’s all about respecting their space. I think it’s definitely worth the risk, to educate yourselves and your children about them. Good luck! They really are fascinating.

  8. Lynn

    I love raw honey! It’s so sad that the stuff in the stores is not trustworthy. Whenever possible, I buy from a lady at the farmer’s market who sells berries and raw honey. I love to put it in tea or wherever a dab of sweetness is called for, and honey is the only sweetener I bake with. Plus it makes the best cough syrup!

  9. Christina

    I’m not sure I’ve ever had raw honey. Until recently, I stayed away from honey because it was too sweet. But I’m starting to come around and I’d LOVE to have my own hives.

  10. Amie T.

    I use raw honey a lot of ways, on toast, in my tea, mixed with cinnamon to releive coughs and colds, straight from the jar…. that is just a few that I can think of right off the top of my head.

  11. Megan S

    I am a new ‘mini’ homesteader with 5 acres in southwest Nebraska! I am really interested in beekeeping and have a million questions, but one that really stands out is figuring out where to put the hives on our property. Literally, our property is surrounded in every direction with other farmers fields that I know use a multitude of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Most of the fields are planted to corn, some years it could be wheat. I’m worried about how well bees would do since I don’t think I can shelter them very well from those fields? I have seen bees around naturally this spring as the danelions have bloomed…

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Megan,
      That’s a tough one! All I can say is that, even with all those fields around you, you still need bees to pollinate your garden and flowers. We’re in exactly the same situation–we only have 8 acres, but are totally surrounded with heavily-sprayed GMO corn or soybeans (depending on the year). Aside from building a huge plexiglass dome over our place (only half kidding) I don’t know the answer to that one. I think we lose so many hives of bees mainly because of the toxic atmosphere that they are forced to live in. In fact the farmer next door took out all the weed trees and brush this year (to allow for a few more rows of . . . corn) which I had felt created a bit of a wind- and chemical-break from those fields. *sigh* Remember that bees will travel up to a mile to find pollen, so we small landowners can’t help the fact that they will come into contact with all that toxic garbage. *snort*

  12. Cynthia Rose

    My very own honeybees are due any day. We are so excited! I use honey in tea and as a sweetener in spaghetti sauce (works much better than sugar) and once I have more I want to make some lip balm.

  13. K. Lee Banks

    What a great comprehensive post on honey! I had no idea most of this was going on behind the scenes before we ever see the jars of honey (or…NOT honey) on our store shelves! I learned in a weight loss group that some honey dissolved in warm water is good to drink before eating, to aid in digestion – but I also like it in tea and spread on my favorite corn English muffins with peanut butter.

  14. sarah auzina

    I eat my raw honey by the spoon, mostly, though it also gets included in tea. The dogs get a spoonful to help with their allergies as well.

    Thanks for hosting this giveway! I sure hope I win, I want those delicious sticky jars of goodness!

  15. Preppy Pink Crocodile

    I often eat raw honey on a spoon and straight from the jar. Also love it on hot toast. And I give a little to my dog who has seizures as there seems to be a link between the pure raw sugars in honey and seizures.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  16. Nora Swafford

    I use honey in my tea. I also give my kids spoonfuls of it when they have colds because of its antibiotic properties.

  17. Jeffrey Scott

    Nice article, never thought much about honey, but having had a bad cough the past few days, I may look into finding some local honey. I too have heard about buying local honey as a ways to lessen the effects of allergies. What can’t honey do??? LOL

  18. Krista

    We eat a lot of honey around here! One of our favorite ways is to mix it into porridge with peanut butter. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top and it tastes just like a reece peanut butter cup, only better and healthier.

  19. Tracy Brunner

    I have recently discovered the huge difference in store bought honey and real honey. I will never again eat honey from the grocery store! My husband is toying with the idea of owning a hive and bees. This information will definitely come in handy for him!

  20. Ricki Ryan

    I would love to start keeping bees and harvesting my own honey…maybe when we move to the country I will make that happen!

  21. Michael

    Loved this entry Amy….I like honey very much but I know I don’t eat nearly enough of it…and I have also become very careful about killing any bees,I do my best to avoid doing that when working around my flowers, The loss of bees and frogs bodes ill for us as the studies are proving.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I agree, Michael, it just gives me the chills. And that it has just been happening for the past few years is particularly scary to me.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Jill,
      My dad has the best luck where wild swarms are concerned. He keeps one tame hive, but also leaves one hive all set up and empty. For the past couple of years, every spring a wild swarm moves in, makes lots of honey, and then moves out at the end of the season. Isn’t that amazing?

  22. Kelly O'M

    I have a teaspoon of honey with cinnamon, if I am feeling ill. I also put a teaspoon of honey in my cup of iced tea every morning.

  23. Mickey Louth

    I’ve started adding spices to my raw honey to boost immunity…black seed, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne pepper. Love the ‘bite’ at the back of my throat…I use this exclusively to sweeten my coffee in the morning..good wake up call 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      WOW. I am learning so much from my readers. I’ve never thought about putting savory spices in my honey. Now my imagination is going wild . . .

  24. Monte Turner

    I can’t wait to have some hives of my own. Also if you suffer from seasonal allergies take a teaspoon every nite before bed. It helps build up that immune system. But it has to be local honey.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Great tip, Monte! We have several customers at farmer’s market who buy our honey just because it helps with their allergies.

  25. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    I am not that fond of regular raw honey but I am quite fond of creamed honey. I buy a creamed raw honey with cinnamon made by a local farm which I have visited in person and toured). I will put it on sweet potatoes and baked winter squash, to name two foods.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      YUM. That sounds really delicious, Alana. Is the creamed honey just whipped with air, or does it have something else whipped into it besides cinnamon? I’d love to try it. Or even better, make some of my own. 🙂

  26. Tamara Shurling

    I eat raw honey by the spoon, in my tea, on my toast… I am getting 2 hives from my dad in a few weeks. He has 8 as of now and I haven’t bought store bought honey since he started.

  27. Chef William

    I do have a good source for raw honey here in Wisconsin, in fact the hives are about 3 miles from my casa. That said, I sure would love to win this one because my wife and I enjoy honey every morning so we go through a good supply, Being nomads we can not have our own hives at this time. Once we settle in Mexico we will be looking into having one or two.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I wonder what the Mexican honey is like, where your house is, Chef. What do the bees pollinate mostly?

      1. Chef William Chaney

        From what I can figure it is mostly a sage like bush in the acres around the property on the ocean. That is where we would have the hive. My wife’s honey supply in Wisconsin is clover. I like to try different honeys but she stays pretty close to what she knows. I brought home a jar of wild honey and I ended up enjoying most of it by my self. She starts her day with a small amount of honey on a plate to which she sprinkles some chia seeds and she dips her toast into it. I add it to my green tea/green tea drink then steel a little of hers for my toast

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Anita-Clare,
      I must confess that really strong honey (late summer honey, we call it around here) isn’t my favorite. I favor the lighter honeys–clover, apple blossom, and linden, and maybe you would, too?

  28. Tana Agudelo

    My favorite use for honey is with lots of butter and bread fresh out of the oven. One very good use for honey that you might not know is to help soothe nausea and vomiting. There has been a study that proved that children given a teaspoon of honey once an hour during a tummy bug actually threw up much less than the control group. It definitely helps quell nausea at our house! You can also use it to cure dandruff if you apply it diluted with water on the scalp for about 15-30 minutes a day for a week or so. Honey is wonderful and I sure would like to try that linden honey!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Tana,
      Great tips! I wish I had known about the nausea tip a couple of weeks ago, when I had the stomach flu.

  29. Amy

    My husband likes it in his coffee instead of sugar. We all love it on homemade bread, the amylase helps us digest the grains.

  30. Linda

    I was not much of a honey fan until I tried some local raw honey with my apple Cider Vinegar. I think I would use it in everything if i could get enough of it! 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Judy, now maybe you can buy with confidence! I’d stick to the jars that I could get from local beekeepers at farmer’s market. I KNOW where it’s coming from.

  31. Dana Hunt

    My Aunt had been doing some cleaning and came across a couple of boxes that had been packed away and forgotten after my grandfather had passed away. I was quite surprised to be gifted a gallon of beautiful dark honey. I never knew my Grandfather kept honey bees on his homestead. It meant so much to me. My husband & I are starting our own homesteading journey and hope to have bees soon.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      What a gift, Dana, and such a sweet 🙂 surprise! Honey lasts a long, long time. Another amazing thing about it! Did you know that they found honey in the tombs of the Pharoahs, which is still good?

  32. Katie

    Great giveaway! I like my raw honey in tea, in oatmeal, on a warm biscuit.. mmm I could go on and on.
    Seriously considering beekeeping next year, thanks so much for all the info!

  33. Sarai

    I can not wait to learn more and start keeping bees! I was shocked to learn this about honey. Luckily our local grocery store Carries local raw honey!

  34. Sheila Alaniz

    Only use honey and maple syrup for our sweetener!!! Would LOVE to win this gift box. I’ve never had infused honey though – would LOVE to try it too!!!

  35. Betty Beebe

    I usually start my day with a spoonful of honey and some Bragg’s Organic Vinegar…great for your metabolism, digestive system and skin!

  36. Lesa

    I found your link in The Prairie Homestead. I use a honey from a local site close to me and buy it from a Natural Foods store. I have been researching hives and bee habits and survival Your post is very informative.
    I use honey in my tea, in baking, on hot biscuits and warm bread, also in some of my lip balms. Going to try in in my oatmeal tomorrow. I heard that linden trees make a beautiful honey. If I win I wold be curious about the clover honey from your area compared to the clover honey I get here.

    Thanks again.

  37. Rosemary

    I use honey in my tea, in baked goods, and straight off the spoon when I need a bit of sweetness. Love dipping a small piece of dark chocolate in honey. Perfect little sweet treat.

  38. Sabrina

    My kiddos have asked me when we’ll have more honey. I haven’t bought any because I don’t have a local source, yet. I can’t stand buying the stuff in the grocery store. If it’s not from the source, you don’t know what’s in it. If we won, they would be ECSTATIC!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sabrina,
      I hear you! We don’t buy honey from the store any longer, either. Hey, I’m having a flash giveaway on my vomitingchicken facebook fan page today. Be sure to enter!

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