Thursday, August 1, 2013

Spice It UP!!! Honey

As the summer draws on, honey starts being sold at local farmer's markets and road-side stands.  I love honey, but I didn't always.  When I was a child, you couldn't get me to eat it!  Now it's one of my sweeteners of choice especially for teas, cornbread, biscuits, and desserts.  I personally recommend eating local honey, especially since it contains pollen from your area (medical studies haven't definitively proved it, but I believe that eating local honey helps with allergies--when I first got to Kentucky, I suffered tremendously, but after eating 1 tablespoon every day one winter, I have hardly had any allergies since!) and supports local farmers.

{Our honey collection!}

World's Healthiest Foods could not have described honey any better:
Honey is a delicious viscous sweetener made naturally by bees for their own nourishment. The fascinating process of making honey begins when the bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees' saliva, a process that turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive, where they deposit it into the cells of the hive's walls. The fluttering of their wings provides the necessary ventilation to reduce the honey's moisture content, making it ready for consumption.
The color and flavor of honey depend on the blossoms that the bees collect the pollen; honey also contains trace amounts of enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.  Lighter colored honeys are usually mild in flavor while darker honeys have a more robust flavor.  (source)

Honey has been used since about 700 B.C. as a food and medicine.  Honey is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral substance.  Honey has been used to boost energy, help heal wounds, and is a great cough suppressent/throat soother.  (source and source)  Whenever I get a sore throat, I immediately start drinking hot water with lemon and honey; my throat feels so much better.  If I have a cough, I take 1 tablespoon of honey (straight--just try and swallow it!) anywhere from 2-3 times a day.

{The honey we use most often.  We get this at our local co-op}

{The hubby LOVES honeycomb-honey (the comb comes with the honey) because he likes to chew on the comb like gum on the occasion.  Strange, but whatever floats his boat!} 

{Ben saw that I was taking pictures of our honey and went "Oh I want a bite of this real honey!"  This honey is so dark (look at first picture) that we didn't know it contained honeycomb!  We got this jar from Ben's dad--not sure if it's honey from him or a neighbor.}

{So thick and sweet!  It's the sweetest I've ever had!}

Honey can be bought either pastuerized or raw.  Raw is much better nutrition-wise as it has not been processing, handled and filtered.  Read more about the nutrition specifics here.  Honey should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.  Honey will rarely, if ever, spoil because of the high sugar and acidity.  The liquid in the honey might solidify (called crystalization) over time, but it's an easy fix.  (source and source)  Just head over to this post for step-by-step instructions on how to reverse the process.

{Sadly, this honey has mostly crystalized.  I revived it and will definitely be using it shortly to make my third batch of granola which will be featured next Friday!  (I have to test and work out the kinks ;o) )}

Of course, I can't talk about honey without mentioning the bees.  According to the American Beekeeping Federation's Honeybee Health Report released May 2, 2013, our honeybees aren't doing too well.  They are dying from parasites, poor nutrition (variety of plants) and lack of genetic diversity.  Some believe that pesticides/insecticides are also to blame for their decline.  In fact, Europe just banned three pesticides in an effort to protect honeybees (source).  A film, entitled More than Honey, explains bee behavior and looks at research trying to help honeybees.  The film also looks at northern China where bee populations have disappeared and now everything has to be pollinated by hand!  (source)

Honey can be used as part of a sauce, salad dressing, or as the sweetner in desserts.  The following recipes contain honey:

Roasted Apple Spice Cupcakes
Peanut Butter Honey Truffles
Honey Almond Croissants
Peanut Butter Energy Balls
Face Scrub
Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans
Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich)
Black Bean Confetti Salad

Do you like honey?  Do you use it often?

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