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The Confused Consumer’s Guide to Honey

by Lauren Branson

Local The Confused Consumer’s Guide to Honey

Sweet! The confused consumer’s guide to honey is here.

It’s a right sticky mess.

The recent media spotlight on honey has many of us feeling confused about our favourite condiment.

Turns out when it comes to honey, we don’t know raw from unfiltered, creamed from manuka, or adulterated from pure.

So, in the name of sweet clarity, we figure it’s time to put honey in the hot-seat and get some answers.

What is honey, exactly?
Honey is a sweet, runny substance produced by bees using nectar from flowers. Once stashed deep in the bee’s belly, nectar mixes with various enzymes and proteins. Back in the hive (which can house up to 60,000 bees) the bees regurgitate the honey and it’s ready for the beekeeper to collect. (Note beekeepers like Ana and Sven fromAmber Drop are kind souls, and only take the honey that the bees do not need for themselves)

Umm, so honey is bee puke?
Yes, the honey is regurgitated. But take heart - it doesn’t come from the digestive part of the bee’s belly. (Hopefully that makes you feel a little better….) Rather, the honey-in-the-making is housed in a seperate part of the bee’s stomach.

Supermarket, beekeepers gate - honey’s all the same right?
No siree, not all honey is created equal, and where you source your honey is particularly important. Big brand supermarket honey likely contains a significant proportion of lesser quality honey (often imported from China or India) and/or ‘fillers’ such as corn, rice or beet syrup - yuk!

For the big guys, these fillers cut costs and the processing enables a uniform look to the honey. Not only that, name-brand honey is heat- treated, which destroys honey’s natural pollens.

Compared to commercial practices, getting farm honey to your table is a piece of cake. The honey is simply extracted from the hive and bottled, leaving the precious pollen in and the questionable fillers out!

Amber Drop Honey

Is honey good for me?
Raw honey contains tiny amounts of pollen, which in nutritional terms, is the bees-knees! Health nuts celebrate bee pollen for a swag of benefits, from warding off infections, providing allergy relief and boosting overall immunity.

Local naturopath Marnie fromThe Tucker Patch sings honey’s praises, even suggesting a wee spoonful of honey at bedtime to ‘feed the brain’ important nutrients while we sleep.

Raw honey is good for your skin too. It’s antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities help heal wounds and clear up blemishes- try a dab on your next pimple.

Processed honey which has been heated, modified and stripped of pollens however, contains little to no nutritional value.

Why does my farm honey look different to supermarket honey?

It’s true - raw farm honey can look different to it’s supermarketing-dwelling cousin. After a while, farm honey may take on a crystalised appearance, making it a little tricky to spread on your toast in the morning.

Raw honey's naturally high levels of glucose, combined with tiny traces of pollen, contribute to the thick, grainy texture. If you see this, rest assured you’re not getting a raw deal. Crystallisation is a natural process and does not indicate your honey is ‘off’. Raw honey actually contains natural preservatives so that it won’t go bad - ever.

Getting honey’s signature viscosity back is easy - simply stand your jar in a bowl of warm/hot water for a few minutes to dissolve the crystals - voila!

Due to the amount of fillers and absence of pollen, supermarket honey remains fluid for its entire life.

Amber Drop Raw Honey from Your Food Collective

The flavour factor
The taste of your honey depends on the kind of nectar the bees foraged on. The lucky bees on Ana and Sven’s property on the Mid North Coast of NSW are currently enjoying spotted gum and mango nectar. (Sounds delicious, right?). The taste profile on the resultinghoney will reflect those flavours.

Bee friendly and make a difference

Bee populations all over the world are dwindling, and that’s not just bad news for bees. The truth is, we need bees. Not just for the honey to dollop over your breakfast cereal every morning, but to ensure pollination of all food crops. No bees mean no crops, which means no food. Seriously.

You can make a difference by supporting the honey made by local bees and harvested bylocal farmers. It’s time to get bee-hind local honey, friends! And, by purchasing real honey, lovingly produced by real passionate beekeepers likeAna and Sven, you send a clear message to the big corporations that offering up a substandard product is simply not on.

Ana and Sven from Amber Drop Honey

Honey in your tummy

With so many uses, honey definitely deserves a top shelf position in your pantry, and the dinner table! Honey lends its sweet notes beautifully tosmoked trout and everyone’s BBQ favourite -sausages.

For a sweet snacktime, Marnie suggests adding a generous spoonful to your fruit smoothies and substituting honey for refined sugar when baking.

Honeylicious BB Smoothie

1 ripebanana

½ cupblueberries

1 tsp rawhoney

1/2 cupmilk

Few ice cubes

Get your honey face on
Lee King-Smith, a nutritionist and beauty therapist atBody & Face Thyme uses honey in her signature raw food facial treatments. She adores the stuff for its skin softening properties and ability to retain moisture, and offers this DIY beauty hack:

Lee’s Sweet Scrub:
2 tsp ground almonds
2 tsp raw honey
Combine both ingredients to form a paste. Gently rub into the face with circular motion. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Next, stay on the honey path with our sumptuousHoney & Calendula moisturiser

7 fun facts about honey:

It takes 500 bees more than four weeks to make 1kg of honey

One bee will make less than a teaspoon of honey in its entire life

Hey, Melissa! Did you know your name means ‘Honey bee’?

Collective nouns for bees include: hive, swarm, grist, or rabble.

Eating honey can help you get smart! It is the only food to contain ‘pinocembrin’ - an antioxidant that improves brain function

Beekeepers are also called honey farmers, apiarists, or less commonly, apiculturists.

You can dip your plant cuttings in a little raw honey to help them propagate
Local Lauren Branson
Lauren Branson

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