Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Taste of Honey

Darev asked if there is a difference in the differing varieties of honey. Yes, there is. Though my some of the differences are subtle in most multi-floral varieties, the differences really stand out when when you get into the mono-cultural varieties.

Here on the coast the honey gets darker as the season progresses. Maple honey is very clear with a very crisp taste. Blackberry honey is golden and more robust and when you get to late season nectars such as knotweed and aster the color can be a darker red with a very rich taste. Oddly the taste of knotweed honey is unpredictable from year to year. Sometimes it is tasty and sometimes it is not.

In the valley there is a seed crop called meadowfoam, and the the honey from that is an acquired taste. Most people don't like it so beekeepers will often add vanilla to make it taste better. I'm not big on the idea of flavor enhancement, but I've tasted this honey with and without flavoring and the flavored version is much more palatable.

Most beekeepers that collect honey from areas where either carrots or queen-Ann's-lace grows try to get the honey off the hive before these plants bloom. The taste of this variety is absolutely disgusting.

There are a few really dark /rich honeys such as buckwheat. There are honeys that are rich and milky white like manuka honey. I have several people ask me every year where they can find poison oak honey.

One thing I've noticed is difference that is present from year to year, especially if I have a sample from a dry year in comparison with a wet year. We had a particularly dry year two years ago. No rain means less nectar, so the bees were taking nectar from anywhere they could find it, meaning plants they find difficult to work. Plumb flowers have a very thick nectar and the bees have a hard time drinking it up. It's like drinking water through a straw in comparison with drinking a thick shake through a straw. Bees are all about efficiency and easy is more efficient. When they can gather more with less effort, that's the way they like it.

Anyway, the dry year we had two years ago produced a very tasty honey. It was richer than most years because the bees worked plants they would normally pass up. This year I notice since we had a very rainy early summer most of out plants were two weeks late and the honey is a little darker. The taste is good and much more robust that clover honey.


Blogger darev2005 said...

Wow. I had no idea. I imagine somewhere there is a very small group of people with finely honed palates that are the World's Leading Honey Connoisseurs. My mom always bought us some sort of clover honey (or so it said on the container) when I was a kid and I liked that. Always wondered what the difference in the tastes was. Now I know. Thank you.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you get those honey dippers in the small-neck bottles?

9:06 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

i need 3 containers, please. let me know how much and i'll bring you the $$

10:07 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Darev, Clover is really the middle of the road in the range of honey taste. It isn't very light and it isn't very complex, but it is abundant. I didn't even get int the regional varieties such as Tupelo or Orange Blossom.

Anon, I was thinking that, to. I tok the photo from the National Honey Board site just to try to demonstrate the differing color characteristics.

Same price as always. Probably next week.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Nulaanne said...

One of the honeys that I like that I can't get up here is Saguaro honey. Honey is yummy

6:15 PM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

National Honey Board.


8:34 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Nulaanne, you can probably find it at

Darev, yes,I think it is an off-shoot of the American Bee Federation. It's a good group that promotes honey and protects it so it doesn't go the way that maple syrup has where they can take corn syrup, add some maple flavoring and call it maple syrup. The NHB is trying to get it so the word "Honey" can not be used on a package unless honey is the primary sweetener.

11:01 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Ah. Okay. I was imagining something a little more sinister. A darkened room lit only by a few beeswax candles and a long highly polished and slightly sticky table.

7:13 AM  

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