Whether spread on toast, served with cheese, baked into a dessert or drizzled on skin, honey makes its own statement. Its viscous quality and sweet, true-to-its-origins taste are enchanting. The floral source of nectar heavily influences the taste and color of honey, just as type of grape and terroir influence those of wine. We are all a product of our environment, no? Honey has its own personality determined by the flowers from which it was produced.
Although I generally frown on the practice of food being marketed as health benefit, honey does have historical and proven use in promoting health. Generally, darker honeys have a stronger taste, and higher anti-oxidant and nutritional properties. Two tablespoons (30 ml) contain 25 mg. of potassium. Honey's antibiotic and preservative qualities are well-documented. It helps in the body's absorption of calcium. Honey lends healing benefits to soaps and cosmetics; beeswax candles are lovely and burn cleanly. The Egyptians used honey as a tonic, skin treatment and even as payment or tribute. Injured German soldiers in WWI were treated with honey poultices to help wounds heal and keep infection at bay. By-products of honey also have health benefits - propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen, etc. I won't go into these, but there's a lot of information out there for further research.
Raw honey has much, much more flavor than processed honey. Try them side by side and the difference is amazing. If there is a chunk of honey comb or a bit of bee leg, so much the better! Nutritive benefits are preserved in raw honey.
- There are more than 300 unique types of honey available, each originating from a different floral source. It's interesting to note that, if bees collect nectar from poisonous plants, the honey will be toxic, as well. Honey from primarily rhododendron or oleander blossoms can kill a person. On a macabre side note (heh heh) oleander is particularly deadly...even the smoke produced from burning it can be fatal, as well as the water in which the flowers are placed. Agatha Christie, where are you? So, let's see what I have in the cupboard and I'll do my best to convey their flavors...
- Mimosa Honey - medium color, flavors of caramelized sugar, distinct floral scent and taste, sharp, citrusy notes...tastes a little bit wicked. I told a friend about mimosa honey and she said, "there's no such thing," Oh, YES, there is.
- Strathdale organic honey - from New Zealand, slightly creamed. Raw honey from white clover. Clean, light, sweet but not cloying like processed clover honey is. Good all-around honey for toast.
- Girasole/Sonnenblumen/Sunflower honey - One of my favorites. Sunny yellow, thick, bright and light on the tongue, but the flavor fills your mouth. There's a slight hint of sunflower stem. It really does taste like summer and you can't help but smile.
- Mt. St. Helens Wild Black Raspberry honey - As with all alpine honeys, the freshness stands out. Taste reminds me of apple blossoms. Very floral quality. This honey includes a chunk of honey comb in the jar and the wax adds to the depth. Remember that honey comb is edible.
- Miele Cardo/Cardoon honey - Cardoons are part of the artichoke family. I have two cardoon plants in my garden that grow to over 8 feet tall, with huge purple, thistle-like blooms. Once I tasted the honey from these blooms, I was lost. Medium-dark in color, heavy in the mouth, vegetal flavor behind the floral. Tastes like languid, deep summer.
- Swiss Alpenhonig - Clean, very liquid, sweet with earthy, farmy overtones. Must be the cows! Great for tea.
- Provence honey - heavy with lavender, but given more complexity from other warm season flowers and weeds. Creamy and sumptuous.
- Rosemary honey - this one is from Italy. For me, not one to eat on its own, as it tastes more savory than sweet. Delightful drizzled on strong cheeses or on figs or used as a glaze for pork or chicken.
- Chestnut honey - Very dark, very strong. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. I use this honey to make German or Dutch honey cake as it imparts the best flavor. Tastes of sweetened sap and dirt.
~Sweet as sweetest Grecian honey will my song be when I sing, O Beloved, in the season of the Spring! -Ruben Dario