Ask Farmer Joe: The Truth On Honey
Just like fruits and vegetables, honey has the most nutritional benefit when it is raw, unprocessed, and local.
What Is Raw?
Raw honey refers to honey that has not been heated or pasteurized. When honey hits a high enough temperature (above 120ºF), it begins to cook, thus killing all of its natural vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Pure, raw honey also contains pollen. When a person suffers from seasonal allergies, it’s a reaction to the pollen in the air. Regularly consuming local honey with traces of pollen from your surrounding area can strengthen your immune system. It can even help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Local honey has many other benefits, too. It has anti-bacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, that processed honey simply does not have. Honey is also a great natural cough suppressant, and is much better for you than over-the-counter cough syrups.
When honey is taken from the beehive, local producers typically pour it through a coarse strainer to remove random pieces of wax and bee parts. If the honey is strained without being pasteurized, the pollen is still present in the end product. However, many commercialized honey operations utilize very fine filters and high heat levels to create pasteurized honey with a longer shelf life. This process rids the honey of its pollen and all of the original nutritional benefits.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that any product that has gone through such fine filtration, or ultra-filtering, and that no longer contains pollen is not honey. But, the FDA is not regulating U.S. honey to see if it contains pollen. Even more shocking, in the commercial honey business, some bottlers can even be found watering down honey before removing the pollen. This technique was copied from the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey (some even containing traces of illegal antibiotics) on the U.S. market for years, according to Food Safety News.
Food Safety News found this as disturbing as many other honey enthusiasts, and did a test of more than 60 honeys from various retail outlets from across 10 states. Here’s what they found:
- 76% of samples purchased from chain grocery stores had all of the pollen removed
- 100% of samples purchased from pharmacies had all of the pollen filtered out
- 77% of samples from big box retailers had no trace of pollen
- 100% of individual packets of honey from restaurants also had all of the pollen removed
- 100% of honey purchased from co-ops, farmers markets, and specialty stores contained their full amount of original pollen
Conclusions from Food Safety News’ study stated that if you see honey that is extremely clear and free from any debris, it has probably been over processed with excessive heat, which destroys all of the good enzymes, vitamins, and pollen. Per the FDA’s definition, this processed product is not honey at all. Ultra-filtered, pasteurized honey is full of processed sugar similar to table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
How can you prevent your family from consuming fake, overly sugared honey? The best way is to support local. Buying from local honey vendors assures you the product’s quality and source. They can also verify that the honey you are purchasing is truly raw, and give you the honey’s history from hive to bottle.
Joe’s Honey FAQs
What makes Freedom Farms’ honey unique?
We strive to keep pure, raw honey in its most natural state so that our customers can enjoy the true hive-to-bottle benefits. Local honey tastes better and is better for you. We bottle it in-house to keep on a careful eye on the quality, and to make sure each bottle is perfect. I’ve even had some fun creating my own blends. These are just a few of the factors that sets our raw honey apart from common grocery store honey.
How long does raw honey last?
Honey never goes bad, however it eventually will crystalize. Your honey will turn a little cloudy, right before forming granular crystals of sugar. Pure honey crystallizes quicker than pasteurized honey. But you can bring it back to its liquid state by carefully warming it. Use a double boiler, or simply soak the honey bottle in a jar of hot (not boiling) water. Just make sure you don’t go over 120ºF, or you’ll start to overheat the honey, which eliminates its key nutrients. Also, do not store your honey in the fridge, this will speed up crystallization. Our honey is delicious though, I don’t know how anyone lets it sit around long enough to crystallize!
Why is your honey different colors?
Just like produce at our Farmers Market, our raw honey is seasonal. Depending on what’s in bloom in the region, and what the bees pollinate will determine the color of honey. Raw honey colors vary from pale yellows to dark amber browns, and each has its own distinct flavor. As a general rule, lighter honey is milder in taste and dark is stronger. Check out my guide below for the three colors you typically see at Freedom Farms.
What is your favorite way to enjoy honey?
I love raw honey mixed into tea. Another awesome way to utilize honey is in soaps. We sell a variety of artisan handmade soaps at our Farmers Market, and the Oatmeal Honey Bar is one of my favorites, and our most popular seller. It’s great for dry winter skin.
Are there any other honey products you recommend?
I love all of Freedom Farms’ honey products. But if you haven’t tried our creamed honey, you’re missing out. We have it plain or with cinnamon. It has an awesome honey taste, but is the consistency of silky icing. Don’t let the name fool you – creamed honey contains no cream or dairy. It’s simply raw honey with a large number of small crystals, which makes it smooth and spreadable. I am also a fan of our bee pollen, I use it as an all-natural multi-vitamin replacement. It’s a great energy-boost and is high in protein. All of these products and more are available in our online store.
About Honey’s Color
- Darker in color, deep brown
- Harvested in the Fall
- Fall honey flow examples: Golden Rod, Japanese Knotweed
- Stronger, robust flavor
- Compliments teas and other beverages well
- Consume this honey during the summer to fight off fall-specific allergies
Joe’s Black & Gold Blend
- Our most popular blend
- A mix of Freedom Farms’ Fall Honey and Golden Nectar
- Helps fight pollen in the air year-round
- Lighter in color, pale yellow
- Harvested in the Spring
- Spring honey flow examples: Alfalfas, Clover, Fruit Trees, Early Perennials
- Milder, sweet flavor
- Perfect for baking and sugar replacement or substitute, the flavor will not over-power your recipe
- Eat in the winter to build up immunity towards spring-time allergies
Originally published in our February 2016 Magazine written by Jenna Dascanio, photography by Elizabeth McCauley.