It is one of the few foods that does not spoil, and honey can be harvested without killing bees.
Honey is also a source of many nutrients, including antioxidants, which have been linked to health benefits in humans. Honey is incredibly good for us and it has many uses.
We are seeing the honey bee populations disappear, which is a threat to humanity because bees play an important role in plant fertilization, thus playing an integral part in agricultural production.
It is believed that there are dozens of reasons for this decline in population, but one of the most likely culprits is neonicotinoids have a read of an article that we wrote that explains this in more detail.
This article will explore honey’s history, the different types available in the UK as well as its nutritional value and uses.
Table of Contents
The History Of Honey
The first evidence of honey can be found in paintings and drawings on the walls of prehistoric caves like Lascaux and Chauvet Caves (France) dating back 25,000 years ago. In these paintings, honey is shown being collected from the wild. In ancient history honey was also used for bartering or buying goods and services, honey bees were domesticated by 6000 BC in Mesopotamia.
What Is Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by honey bees (Apis mellifera) who collect nectar from flowers. Honey comes in a variety of hues and tastes. It all depends on the nectar and blossom from which the honey bees extract the honey. Honey bees have developed more than 300 types of honey due to their different foraging behaviours on various blossoms
How Is Honey Made
Honey production starts with the collection of nectar from flowers for honey production. Nectar has a high sugar content and it’s this that gives honey its sweeter taste than other sugars such as cane sugar. The nectar sap travels up a tube to the honey stomach, a honey sac, and then exits into honeycomb cells where honey is then made or stored. Honey bees have modified honeycomb cells to accommodate honey storage.
To produce honey, honeybees must visit flowers and suck nectar with their long tongues for between 20 minutes up to an hour per flower.
The bee regurgitates the nectar into a honeycomb cell which it then eats too! The enzymes in its saliva break down the sucrose and glucose molecules in honey, turning them into fructose and dextrose.
The honeybee then uses its legs to fan air through the honeycomb cells to evaporate excess water from honey which has a low moisture content of around 18%. This process takes between 40 minutes-up 90 minutes too! Once bees have completed this honey-making process honey has a moisture content of around 18-18.75%.
Once the honey is made by honeybees it can be harvested via an electric current which causes the honeycomb to release its nectar and honey into collecting tanks below the hives.
What are the different types of honey
Raw honey is honey that has not been heated or processed, and it still contains the enzyme invertase. It often crystallizes quickly, and it typically comes from a honeycomb rather than a honey extraction machine.
Pure honey is honey that has been filtered to remove its pollen grains. This process is known as degumming and vernalization, which involves removing the extra protein and waxes in raw honey by heating it for 20 minutes at 100 C (212 F). Pure honey is a necessity for those who have allergies or sensitivities to bee pollen, honeybees or honeycomb.
Organic honey is honey that has been produced by honeybees that are not exposed to pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Organic honey benefits from the honeycomb cells that have never been processed with heated chemicals, so it’s much healthier than your average honey. The honey retains all of its natural enzymes because the honeybees are not exposed to any pesticides or artificial fertilizers.
Unfiltered honey comes from honey that has not been heated or processed, and it still contains sugar enzymes. This honey’s grains are typically larger than the honey produced by honeybees who have been heated during the honey production process, so unfiltered honey typically crystallizes quickly.
Our Favourite Types Of Honey To Try
Acacia honey is a honey produced by honeybees who make their honey from the pollens of the Acacia tree family. In most cases, this honey will be dark honey that has a rich, spicy aroma and a robustly sweet taste. The honey’s colour ranges from light to dark brown and it may contain small crystals.
Afalfa honey is honey that is produced by honeybees who collect nectar from alfalfa flowers. The honey’s taste and colour vary with the seasons and will be light amber-coloured honey from late summer to autumn, gold honey from spring to early summer, and dark brown honey from early autumn to winter.
Blueberry honey is honey that is produced by honeybees who collect nectar from blueberry flowers. The honey’s taste and colour vary with the seasons and will be light amber-coloured honey from late summer to autumn, gold honey from spring to early summer, and dark brown honey from early autumn to winter.
Chestnut honey is honey that is produced by honeybees who collect nectar from wild chestnut flowers. Chestnut honey may vary in colour depending on the time of year that it was harvested (it will be light milk-coloured honey in spring, dark brown honey in autumn, and light amber-coloured honey in summer). It also has a varying taste with the same seasonal changes.
Clover honey is a honey produced by honeybees who make their honey from the pollens of the Clover plant family. Clover honey will be golden and thick, with a sweet and strong flavour that is generally considered to be very pleasant; it has a moderate sugar content of 18% to 30%, which means clover honey generally takes longer than other honey varieties to crystallize.
Eucalyptus honey is a honey produced by honeybees who collect nectar from eucalyptus flowers. This honey may contain small crystals and has a rich, concentrated flavour with an earthy darkness.
Grape honey is honey made by honeybees who collect nectar from grape flowers. The look and flavour of grape honey depend on the grapes being used to make it, but generally, it’s dark honey with a rich, complicated flavour.
Heather honey is a honey produced by honeybees who collect nectar from heather plants. Heather honey ranges in colour depending on the time of year it was harvested; it will be light amber-coloured honey for spring, deep brown honey for summer, and light brown or yellow-coloured honey for autumn.
Manuka honey is a honey produced by honeybees who collect nectar from manuka flowers. Manuka honey has a light amber-coloured, honey-like texture with an aroma that’s similar to honeydew; its flavour is delicate and sweet that tasters may describe as creamy with caramel notes (its sugar content can range anywhere from 24% to 35%).
Orange Blossom Honey
The orange blossom honey is produced by honeybees who collect nectar from orange blossoms. This honey has a watery texture and distinctive aroma that is bursting with citrus flavours of orange, lemon, and citronella.
Wildflower honey is a honey produced by honeybees who make their honey from the pollens of more than one flower family or plant group. This honey will be less sweet than other varieties, even though its sugar content may range from 18% to 45%. This honey is often golden with a light, delicate flavour which may vary in taste across regions. Wildflower honey tends to crystallize quickly, making it perfect for enjoying on toast at breakfast with your favourite jam!
Tea Tree Honey
Tea tree honey is a honey produced by bees who forage on the pollen of tea trees growing in Australia. This honey is light-coloured and tastes similar to eucalyptus plants; it also has an earthiness to its flavour due to the plants used as its source.
Damson honey is honey that honeybees collect nectar from the damson plant. It will be dark honey with a strong, tangy taste.
Bryebread honey is a honey produced by honeybees who collect nectar from bryony flowers. This honey varies in taste and looks depending on the season it’s made in; it will be yellow honey from spring to late summer, dark honey from autumn to winter, and white honey from summer to early autumn.
What are the health benefits of eating honey?
There are so many benefits to honey. It’s a great way for adults and children alike to get the natural sweetness they need in their diet, honey is also antibacterial, honey can help heal wounds, honey can combat coughs and sore throats, honey boosts the immune system, honey may have antioxidant properties which contribute to overall health, honey may reduce inflammation, honey can provide a quick energy boost and honey is great for your skin. Honey has been shown to be beneficial in treating both stomach ulcers and urinary infections and is an option for diabetics.
But above all the more honey we eat, the more we protect our beloved hard-working bees.