Not Just Any Honey Will Do

Image Vintage HiveI WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there,
of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, 
a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, 
for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning 
to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer,
and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now,
for always night and day,
I hear lake water lapping
with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway,
or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

- Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Half the world's population now live in an urban setting, forecast to increase to 80% by the year 2050.  That's an awful lot of people p surrounded by "pavements gray", removed from the beauty and the joy of self-sufficiency beautifully described by Yeats.  There will be no deep heart-core memories of either the sounds of nature, or the taste of its food.

Honey, a universal substance used by thousands of generations as food and medicine, is quickly being replaced with a substance and beekeeping practices, unfamiliar to our ancestors.  In his book, Sweet Deception, Dr. Joseph Mercola states that nearly 2/3 of North American honey-producers force-feed high-fructose corn syrup to their bees. The result? Garbage-in, garbage-out.

China, the biggest producer of honey used by the food-processing industry, also uses high-fructose corn syrup to 'cut' or extend the honey, known as "honey laundering".

What consumers don’t know is that honey doesn’t usually come straight – or pure – from the hive. Giant steel drums of honey bound for grocery store shelves and the food processors that crank out your cereal are in constant flow through the global market. Most honey comes from China, where beekeepers are notorious for keeping their bees healthy with antibiotics banned in North America because they seep into honey and contaminate it; packers there learn to mask the acrid notes of poor quality product by mixing in sugar or corn-based syrups to fake good taste. None of this is on the label. Rarely will a jar of honey say “Made in China.” Honey Laundering

Image Creamed Honey

Just like with our milk, milk, poultry, eggs and most produce, we buy-fresh, buy-local, from farmers who respect the soil, animals and their customers, having a care for the health of all.  

Honey is no different. It is only going to be as good as the beekeeping practices, the source of food for the bees, and the lack of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics.

While rare, some honey can be poisoned, a fact first formally reported in 1794 by Barton, an early-American botanist.  Neuro-toxins from Moutain Laurel (kalmia latifolia) and rhododendrons, may cause symptoms ranging from tingling extremeties to death.  

I had the unpleasant and scary experience of tingling, numb toes, fingers and lips after tasting my first-ever bite of Mountain Laurel-tainted sourwood honey, purchased during a vacation in Tennessee.  Evidently, my batch of honey wasn't tested by the beekeeper, using the most primitive of methods.

Some of the farmer beekeepers in localities where there is abundance of mountain laurel (kalmia latifolia) test the first honey harvested after the blooming of this plant by feeding some of it to a dog. If the dog can walk in thirty or forty minutes after eating a piece of the comb honey about three inches square, the beekeeper will let his children help themselves. If the dog gets so he can't walk, and acts as if he was suffering great pain, they dispose of the honey in some way other than using it as food.  The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture

Who knew finding healthy, properly created and harvested raw honey would be almost as difficult as finding good sources of raw milk. I documented and posted my research and findings here on Pickl-It.  My hope is if it saves anyone else time, and the avoidance of numb wips - I mean lips - then it will be worth it!

* Choose Local Honey - tips on questions to ask your local beekeeper

* Honey Storage Tips - spoonful creamed honey

* Honey Gone Good; Honey Gone Bad - Case studies of various honey-storage methods

* Creamed Honey Recipe - make your own creamed honey! This is the same technique used by beekeeper's to control the crystallization of their honey, moving it towards creamed, instead of rock-hard or oxidized liquid honey.