By Babs Rodriguez
Above photo by Sean Walker
Some people collect fine wines. We fill our cupboards with honey. The subtle flavor variations in all those sticky jars make developing a terroir-sensitive honey palate a sommelier-worthy challenge. Organize a tasting to convince your sweet tooth that bees are the consummate blossom connoisseurs. Aromas and colors are also a result of flowers our busy friends visit. With more and more local honey on offer at pop-ups, gourmet food stands, delis and groceries, we’d have to say the market is bearish. Here are a few facts that we’re buzzed about.
Colors and flavors vary from the almost transparent acacia honey to the golden, lightly sweet product of mesquite and the amber/rich brown “dark” honeys from buckwheat, manuka, thyme and wildflowers. The darker the honey, the more pungent the flavor and higher the level of nutrients.
Minimally processed, unheated honey has the highest levels of antioxidants. And locally produced, unheated and unfiltered honey contains the most pollen, the better to build resistance to area allergens.
Because there’s a chance that spores in honey can lead to infant botulism, you should never feed honey to a child younger than 1 year old.
Cheers to Bees
Honey infused with herbs and/or spices is an easy-to-make cocktail mixer. Top a tablespoon of dried herbs (lavender, basil or thyme — or a blend, but only dried, not fresh) with a cup of honey. A broken vanilla bean or dried chile flakes create sweet or spicy profiles. Stir, cap tightly and let sit at room temperature for 14 days. Strain into a clean glass jar. Add a teaspoon or two to your favorite spirit along with a squeeze of lemon, stir and serve over ice.
Honey has been celebrated as medicinal since ancient times, but its natural antibacterial properties were documented in the late 19th century. Not all honey is equally powerful, though; New Zealand’s manuka honey — find it at Central Market — is known for its strong anti-inflammatory qualities as well as being a potent antibacterial agent. Note: The price of manuka reflects its superstar reputation.