You may have heard by now that much of the honey sold in supermarkets in the U.S. can hardly be classified as honey. Commercialized honey may contain added preservatives, flavorings, coloring, excess water and most of their nutrients have been heated and filtered out.
So what exactly goes into the production of raw honey?
Harvested honey comes in many different colors. You never know exactly how much honey will harvest or what shade the honey will come in. Usually spring honey is more golden that the darker fall honey. It varies from year to year. Some of the reasons for this are usually related to the weather during a particular season. The weather greatly affects the amount of honey produced each year. If it is especially wet during a particular season, the amount of honey produced is limited. The bees cannot go out and gather any nectar to turn into honey. If it is too hot, the plants and flowers are not in bloom for long and therefore the bees also cannot gather enough nectar. They need the nectar to feed themselves first and we will never take more than they have to spare. We want the hive to survive more that we want extra honey for ourselves or others.
Composition of Raw Honey
Most small operators gather honey from the bees twice per year. At the end of the spring season, about late June, we gather the hives excess honey. It is usually a lighter, golden shaded honey. The nectar used in the springtime is usually from local spring flowering trees and some spring flowers. At the end of our fall season, about mid-September, we gather the honey again. During this time of the year, the honey is usually a darker shade. In the fall, the bees gather nectar from purple strife, golden rod, chrysanthemums and other late blooming plants.
Hand Harvested vs. Commercial
Hand harvested honey, or cold spun, is much more labor intensive than that of commercial producers who usually heat the honey to extract it from the comb. It usually costs a bit more than commercial, but it is healthy and untreated. People buy honey in the grocery stores thinking that they are doing something healthy for themselves not knowing that much of that honey comes from overseas where the laws are much more lax than they are here. In Fact, China is no longer allowed to export their honey to the U.S. because of poisons and insecticides used around the hives. They continue to attempt to bypass this law and will sell their honey to other countries, who then sells it to the U.S. Be careful what you purchase!
Lastly, only raw honey will crystallize. This does not mean the honey has turned bad, and will not the affect the taste or quality of the honey. It can take months or even years before raw honey will crystallize. If it does, just place it in a bowl of hot water to melt the crystals. This will not affect the beneficial properties or taste of your honey. Do not place in the microwave or heat over the stove. This will kill most of the good stuff that you are trying to consume in the first place.Also, it is not recommended to store raw honey in the refrigerator as this speeds up the crystal formation.