Why Eat Local Honey?
Buying local honey is the best way to ensure you are getting exactly the product you are looking for. Raw, unfiltered honey has more health benefits than filtered honey. Local honey means you are getting real honey from a beekeeper you trust.
Raw honey is honey that hasn’t been pasteurized or highly filtered. Raw honey is strained to remove wax and bee parts, but pollen remains.
Most commercial honey has been heated to kill yeasts and produce a smoother product. It has been filtered to remove air bubbles and debris to make it look clearer.
Some honey is ultrafiltered to remove pollen and antioxidants. Some manufacturers might add sugar or other sweeteners as well.
If you are looking for health benefits, most say A href=”https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/top-raw-honey-benefits”>raw honey is what you want to buy. Raw honey has vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. It is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, and may help digestive health.
Your raw local honey will also contain local pollen. Some say this can help you reduce pollen allergies. However, the pollen that causes allergies is grass and tree pollen, not flower pollen.
You can certainly try local honey to help your allergies, but the pollen you’ll find most will come from flowers, not the grass and trees that are wind pollinated. Some of the pollen will come from grass and trees, but the majority will not.
Your raw, local honey can help soothe your sore throat, and is an effective cough suppressant. It can be a natural option to help with cold symptoms.
Honey benefits aside, there are other good reasons to buy local honey. Your local honey will come from a single source, rather than a mix of producers. It will be flavored by the local environment, which can vary from hive to hive. You will support the bees and beekeepers in your area as well.
Is Commercial Honey Fake?
Back in 2011, Food Safety News tested a bunch of honey samples from different sources, including grocery stores, drug stores, and fast food restaurants. The majority of their tests showed honey had been ultrafiltered, removing all the pollen.
NPR reported on the FSN study, saying that honey without pollen is still honey, and just because it had the pollen removed doesn’t mean it was ultrafiltered.
There are other ways to filter pollen out of honey that doesn’t involve the ultrafiltration methods. Honey producers say that American consumers prefer pollen free honey because it is clear instead of cloudy.
However, removing the pollen does mean that you can’t accurately determine where the honey came from. Considering that honey is the third most likely to be faked food out there, buying cheap commercial honey does have its risks.
Likely the honey you buy at the store has not been adulterated with sugar or corn syrup. It probably didn’t come from China, which is where a lot of honey laundering comes from.
There are a lot of reasons to make sure your honey comes from a reputable source. From antibiotics in Chinese honey, to honey that has had sugar added, to filtration, buying raw, local honey is the easiest way to ensure your honey is the best.
Local Honey Terroir
Terroir is the distinctive qualities that a wine or other product has that comes from their local environment. How and where foods are produced can affect their flavor. Single source local honey can have a terroir as well.
Most commercial honey is a blend of whatever honey the producer has purchased. Their goal is to sell a consistent product. Consumers like consistency.
But a single source local honey will taste different from year to year, or hive to hive. It can be a lot of fun to sample different options and try new flavors. Each batch of honey will have a different taste and texture.
You may find light and floral honeys, as well as dark honeys that are molasses-like. Adding your favorite can elevate the flavor of your cooking as well.
It can be a lot of fun to explore different regions by trying their local honey.
Local Honey helps Pollinators
Buying local honey helps support local beekeepers and helps their bees. Honey bees don’t just make honey, they also pollinate flowers to help fruits and vegetables grow. They help local farms.
Lots of food depends on pollination. There are migratory beekeepers that take their hives from orchard to orchard. As they visit monoculture orchards, the honey from those bees can be labeled as coming from particular flowers, because the majority of the flowers the bees visit are of one type.
Those migratory beekeepers are important for large farms. A monoculture field or farm will only offer flowers for a short time period rather than a mix of different flowering times. A lack of flowers to pollinate over time does not support native pollinators.
Insects and other pollinators that depended on flowers would starve in an monoculture apple orchard, as those trees only flower in the spring. Pollinators depend on a constant supply of flowering times, requiring a variety of floral plants.
Migratory beekeepers often have stressed hives, and suffer from colony collapse disorder. In our current agricultural system, stressed bees can cause a lot of problems for large scale farms.
Buying local honey means you can seek out honey from hives that are exposed to a more natural environment. There is a variety of pollen available and the bees are less stressed.
Remember, though, that honeybees are only one part of the pollinator web. Honeybees get a lot of coverage because they are struggling, but they are just one type of pollinator out there.
There are over 4000 native bee species in the US. Honeybees are only a part of that, but they can be actively managed and moved. Large farms need them if they can’t support native bee populations with diverse plantings.
Unfortunately, habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and diseases are causing problems for many pollinators, including honeybees. Supporting local pollinators is important, and providing a wildlife garden can help.
Planting for pollinators, as well as avoiding using pesticides that harm them, can help both honeybees as well as native pollinators. Supporting your local beekeeper will help to improve the health of your local environment.
Where to Find Local Honey
Often, your local farmers market is a great place to find local honey. The bigger markets might have beekeepers regularly, while smaller ones might only have beekeepers from time to time.
That means visiting your market regularly is a good way to make sure you don’t miss the days the honey shows up.
You can also check out the Maryland State Beekeepers Association, where they have a long list of local beekeepers and their contact information. Their list is broken down by county and town.
Local honey should be cloudy, not clear. Because it hasn’t been highly filtered, it still has pollen and some impurities in it, and may crystallize over time. You can easily decrystallize it by heating it slowly.
Store your honey in a cool location, out of direct sunlight. Honey that is properly sealed won’t spoil, but left open in a humid environment and it could go bad.
If you have the space, consider getting your own hive and having a source of truly local honey in your backyard! The MD Beekeepers Association will direct you to classes, and local beekeeping clubs to learn more.
Having your own hive is a source of fascination and a great way to experience your natural environment. You can raise your own tiny livestock with little work on your part.
Whether you buy or grow your own, the health benefits and delicious taste of local raw honey are not to be missed!