HONEY – THE NATURAL SWEETENER
Honey bees are vital to agriculture and the world’s food supply. While gathering nectar to produce honey, bees are transferring pollen. The USDA estimates that one third of the food supply benefits from honeybee pollination.
There are few wild bees in Pennsylvania due to Bee mite infestations. We rely on our own bees for pollination on our farm. The honey is available in our store seasonally. We also always have a supply of local honey.
Honey, a pure, natural sweetener prepared by bees from nectar collected from wild and cultivated flowers, was the first sweetener known to man.
It is frequently mentioned in the Bible and depicted in cave paintings from prehistoric times. Early civilizations, like the Greeks and Romans, called honey, “the nectar of the gods”. It has been said that honey bees were not native to North America, and that early settlers brought bee colonies to the East Coast States. Native Americans termed them the “White Man’s Fly.”
When bees have access to large areas of one kind of flower, such as clover, basswood, goldenrod or buckwheat, they produce honey with a flavor and color typical of that particular plant. Bees also make natural blends of honey from many different flowers in areas where no one flower predominates.
Honey flavors range from mild and bland to strong and pungent. The colors range from black to white. Pigment (color) begins in the nectar at the plant and is transported back to the hive. It is intensified by the natural process that the bees put it through (reducing the moisture level, etc.) Darker colored honey does NOT mean lesser quality; it means a different source of nectar and a different taste of honey. By trying different honeys, you can find the ones you enjoy the most. If you wish to reliquefy naturally granulated honey, put the container in a double boiler or some other water bath at about 145 degrees. A microwave also works well. Loosen or remove the container lid and stir the honey once or twice while it is heating. As soon as the granules are dissolved, remove the honey from the heat and let it cool as quickly as possible. NOTE: Honey that is partially granulated is not going bad!
Both liquid honey and comb honey should be stored properly to maintain their quality. For home use, store in a dry location at 70-75 degrees. Make sure the cap is on tight because honey tends to absorb moisture, which can lower its quality long term, granulation free storage, keep sealed and in a freezer. Granulated or creamy honeys should be kept at room temperature.
When substituting honey for sugar in a recipe, add one cup honey in place of each cup of sugar called for, and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey added (note: because honey has more sweetening power than sugar, a reduced quantity of honey may be appropriate – adjust per your taste). Recipes containing honey need to be beaten longer and more vigorously than sugar recipes, and when baking with honey, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used and lower the temperature by 25 degrees. Honey batter becomes crisp and browns faster than sugar butter. The floral source of the hone should be considered when cooking with honey since honey will impart some of its flavor (darker, stronger honeys will allow more of a honey taste to come through in your finished product). Honey will provide a firmer, heavier texture.
CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder: Colony Collapse Disorder is believed to affect transient bee hives (hives moved to farms for pollination.) more than bee hives that are not moved. The latest research has connected CCD to an imported viral disease in conjunction with bee mites. Our hives have not been affected.
- Up to 1/3 of the produce consumed by humans comes from plants pollinated by bees.
- The color and flavor of honey is determined by the kind of flowers bees visit.
- Bees travel as far as five miles to collect pollen, nectar, and water.
- Honey bees cannot eat straight honey. They must dilute it with water first.
- Honey bees can sting only once. One with a full stomach cannot sting at all.
- A queen bee lays nearly her own body weight in eggs each day, up to 200,000 each year.
- Queen bees store a lifetime of sperm because they can mate only the first three weeks of their adult lives.
- Queen bees live up to three years. Workers live about six weeks.
- Queens, workers, and drones all come form the same eggs. They develop differently depending on what the young are fed.
- Honey is 50 percent sweeter than sugar and contains fewer carbohydrates and calories.
- Among its many uses, honey is an effective embalming agent.
- Some people are intentionally stung by bees as a treatment for arthritis.
- Information compiled from Delaware Cooperative Extension resources.