You probably know that the honey bee makes honey.
I’m sure that you’ve tasted honey and found it to be delicious. But do you know what it really is?
Bees make honey by gathering nectar from plants. Nectar is a sweet liquid that is produced by flowering plants. They produce it in the hope that bees, wasps, and other insects will land on the flower, gather nectar, and inadvertently brush up against the pollen. As they fly from plant to plant, the pollen that’s already collected on their body will rub off on other plants. The pollen initiates a fertilization process.
What is Honey, Really?
Honey is made when the nectar combines with enzymes in the bee’s saliva. They deposit the material into the cells of the hive where they store it for later. Interestingly, the buzzing of their little wings is what dries the honey out enough that it is ready to eat.
Beekeepers then collect the honeycombs, scrape off the wax caps the bees place on top of each cell, and extract the honey. The flavor of the honey is determined by the flowers that the honey bee gathers the nectar from. For example, if a honey bee gathers nectar from an orange blossom, then the nectar will taste a bit like oranges, while if it gathers nectar from a clover field then you’ll taste clover in your honey.
There are many fun and different varieties of honey including Alfalfa, Blueberry, Avocado, Buckwheat, Eucalyptus, Sage, Sourwood, Tulip Poplar, & Wildflower. In additions, there’s also raw honey, Manuka honey, hot honey, flavored honey and many others.
Honey also differs in both color and texture as well. The darker the color, the more flavorful.
Health Benefits of Eating Honey
You know that there are many forms of sugar & sweeteners, but none of these has the same health and nutrition properties that honey has. Honey also doesn’t have any fat or cholesterol. In addition to having a significant number of nutrients and minerals, honey has other health and healing properties.
A Natural Source of Fast Energy
Honey is already broken down to a very basic level which means that your body can use it almost at once. It doesn’t have to go through a lengthy digestion process, like a sandwich might, to become energy for your body. Your body can begin converting honey immediately. This means it’s a fast source of fuel, which can be particularly important if you exercise.
Honey is a fantastic pre or post workout snack and many endurance athletes consume honey during their workout to provided sustained energy. There are now many sports nutrition products made from honey because it is so easy for your body to manage and healthy too.
Honey has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. This helps manage your insulin response and give you energy without the sugar rush associated with most sweeteners.
Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Bacterial
Honey also has many healing properties. It is both an anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial. It’s commonly used to alleviate sore throats. As well, you can use it as a cough suppressant instead of cough medicine. A spoonful of honey will coat the throat and reduce pain and soreness. My husband & I will both add a spoonful of honey along with some lemon to our tea if we feel a sore throat coming on. It really works!
Honey is easy to cook with. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and if it crystallizes, you can simply warm it up before you use it. It’s a delicious addition to a peanut butter sandwich and it’s amazing on top of pancakes. But honey is more than something you add to pancakes or sandwiches, it can be the premier ingredient in a recipe.
If you want to add more honey into your daily diet, enjoy the following easy to make recipes.
Honey and Oil Vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup – honey
- 1/4 cup – balsamic vinegar
- 3 T – soy sauce
- 2 cloves – garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup – olive oil
Combine the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour over your favorite salad greens and enjoy. You can keep this dressing in your refrigerator for a week.
Honey Glazed Acorn Squash
- 2 – acorn squash
- 1 cup plus 1 T- water
- ¼ cup – honey (Try sage honey for a nice flavor)
- ½ t – kosher salt
For Honey Butter:
- ½ cup – unsalted butter
- ½ cup – honey
- Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place a cup of water in the bottom of a baking dish. Arrange squash with pulp facing up.
Combine honey, salt, and a tablespoon of water, in a small bowl. Brush the top of the squash. Cover pan with foil and bake for thirty minutes.
Make the honey butter while the squash is baking. In a small sauce pan melt the butter and cook until it begins to brown. Add the honey and salt. Set aside to cool. Remove the foil from the squash and bake for another 15 minutes or until fork tender and golden brown. Serve the squash with a spoon of the honey butter on top and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs
- ¼ cup – honey
- 1 – orange, zested
- 2 T – orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
- 1 T – extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T – Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 t – chopped garlic
- 2 t – kosher salt
- 4 – chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
Combine the first seven ingredients into a bowl or bag and add the chicken thighs. Let marinate for at least an hour. Heat a sauté pan or cast iron skillet on medium high heat, add your olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your chicken thighs skin side down. Cook for three to five minutes, flip and cook for another fifteen minutes or until done. Discard the marinade.
Honey Bee Cocktail
- 2 oz. Jamaican dark rum
- 1/4 oz. honey
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
Pour the rum, honey and lemon juice into a chilled cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and enjoy.
If you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage try this delicious treat.
- 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup peeled fresh ginger slices
- Fresh mint sprigs
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups ice cubes
Combine the lemon juice, honey, ginger, and one chopped sprig of mint in a large pitcher and stir, pressing the mint and ginger to release flavor. Add the water and stir until the honey dissolves, then add the ice and pour into glasses. Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint for a festive look.
Help the Honey Bee & Yourself!
So thank you to the hard working honey bee!
Whether you purchase local honey from your farmer’s market or the mass produced stuff that comes in the cute plastic bear at your grocery store, you’ll find many uses for honey. Maybe you’ve never used honey before…now you have some reasons to try it.
Honey has been around since the beginning of recorded time. Ancient civilizations touted the sweet substance for its health benefits & healing powers. Seems like just about every culture on our planet also uses honey in a variety of recipes—whether it’s part of your cocktail, main meal or dessert. Wow, there’s even honey sticks to stir into your tea!
Keep the honey bee in business and protect our environment with your purchase and use of honey!
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