ah . .honey, honey

I remember growing up that honey was used in our house in many ways. It was used in baking and making honey granola as well as spread on hot toast with butter. A spoonful of honey found its way into my morning tea. When we had a sore throat, a teaspoon of honey was a soothing and welcome treat. Honey mixed with oatmeal and some warm water makes a great natural face scrub.

There are more than 300 known honey varieties, each with it’s own distinctive flavour. Many of these are produced in North America. Some have stronger, more pronounced flavours while others are milder and more delicate. When a person says that they don’t like the taste of honey, it could very well be that they have only tried one variety and not enjoyed that particular flavour. In general, honey that is light in color has a mild flavor and the ones with a darker color usually have strong flavor.

The main reason for the large number of honey varieties is the different types of nectar source. Bees visit many kinds of plants and flowers, getting different qualities of nectar from these flowers.

Here are some of the common honey varieties:

Clover Honey
Clover honey is probably described as the classic honey taste. Its sweet, mild flavor and aroma makes it the most popular honey in North America. There are different types of clovers though, namely the red clover, white clover and sweet clover. Depending on the type of clover visited by the bees, the color of clover honey can range from water white to amber.

Avocado honey
Many people think that avocado honey has a very strong flavor because of its dark amber color, but this variety of honey that comes from avocado blossoms in California actually has a mild and buttery taste. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals.

Orange blossom honey
Just like its name, the orange blossom honey has a fruity, light citrus taste and a mild aroma with a light golden or orange color. Its source is a combination of citrus trees that grow in California, Florida, Arizona and some parts of Texas, usually around March and early April when the trees begin to blossom.

Tupelo honey
This world-famous honey originates from Florida, one of the six honey-producing states in the US. Tupelo honey is obtained from the Tupelo tree that grows along the river and in swamps. The beekeepers float their hives on platforms above the water and the bees fly out to find the Tupelo flowers and then return to the hives. Another special characteristic that differentiates this honey from other honey varieties is that it will not crystallize due to its high fructose content.

Wildflower honey
The term wildflower in this honey variety actually refers to its multi floral sources. Because of this, the flavor may change or be different from a sample previously tasted. Wildflower honey is available both as free flowing and as creamed honey, with colors varying from light amber to dark amber. The taste is not as sweet as clover honey, but it is an excellent choice in cooking because of its distinct floral flavor.

Buckwheat honey
The popularity of buckwheat honey is probably due to its very dark color and its bold, robust flavor and aroma. Its color is usually a pronounced dark amber. The thick, buckwheat honey was traditionally used in French spice-bread or gingerbread since it helps to keep them moist. Those who are used to light, mild flavored honey may not appreciate the strong flavor. Compared to other honey varieties, buckwheat honey is extremely sensitive to heating. The production of buckwheat honey is largely influenced by the weather, and the best time for nectar production is in cool, moist conditions at flowering time.

Sage honey
The light colored and mild flavored sage honey comes in different varieties: black button, purple sage, white sage as well as other varietals. This flowing honey variety can have a light, almost water-white or a dark, golden colour and has a tender aroma and with a pleasant sweet, mild flavor; not unlike clover honey. Sage honey takes quite a long time to crystallize. It is known to be useful in treating cough and heart diseases.

Alfalfa honey
Alfalfa honey has a light color with a pleasant and slightly minty taste. This type of honey is extensively produced in the United States and Canada, and the alfalfa crop is usually grown in the same localities as sweet clover. The combination of sweet clover and alfalfa mixed together gives a fine product and usually results in a higher price in the market.

Sourwood honey
Just as the name implies, sourwood honey has a slightly sour taste. The color is usually clear or light yellow, but sourwood honey that is harvested in eastern North Carolina has a blue-purple color. This honey originates from the sourwood or sorrel tree that is found throughout southeastern United States, especially around the Mississippi River and south of Pennsylvania.

Regardless of which honey variety you choose honey is a great way to add flavour and sweetness to your baking, cooking and everyday enjoyment.

Honey Oatmeal Cookies:
1 cup honey
1 egg
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Beat together the shortening, honey, egg, water, and vanilla until creamy. Add combined remaining dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. Cookies will still be soft in the center. Remove baking sheets from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack. Once cookies have cooled completely, store in an airtight container.

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