With different colors, textures, origins, there are hundreds of types of honey. Find out how to become an expert on finding real honey and learn more about this creamy and flavorful food. Here are some elements to decipher this natural product.
What is the source of honey?
Honey nectar: to produce nectar honey, bees simply forage on flowers. They suck in the nectar, a sweet liquid, containing 60 to 80% water and the rest in sugar, secreted in the heart of the flowers. The flowers produce it to attract foraging insects and thus be pollinated. Each plant produces a liquid that contains a multitude of sugars including fructose, glucose, and sucrose at varying rates depending on the nectary of the flowers. In this nectar, we find the pigments and aromas that will differentiate the honey.
In the hive, the workers bring back this nectar and transmit it from mouth to mouth to the recipients who will transform it into honey thanks to the effects of an enzyme produced by glandular secretions, we then speak of nectar honey. This is the case for honey from lavender, flowers, sumac, strawberry tree, rosemary, thyme, acacia, heather, manuka, rapeseed, and, more rarely, clover, sainfoin, or Alfalfa… The chestnut tree secretes both honeydew and nectar.
Honeydew honey: What differentiates honey from honeydew is the raw material collected by bees, not pollen and nectar but honeydew. Honeydew is a thick, viscous liquid produced by sucking on stinging insects such as aphids, psyllids, whiteflies, and mealybugs, which sting tender parts of plants and feed on the sap. They then secrete the sweet matter that they cannot assimilate and digest, it is honeydew. These secretions in the form of droplets are then collected by the bees which will transform them into honeydew honey with the same enzymatic process as for nectar.
Among these honey, we find fir, spruce, pine, oak, beech, maple, chestnut, lime, alder, ash, cistus, eucalyptus, myrtle, forest …
Honeydew honey is generally darker and less moist than nectar honey. This honey, which involves the intervention of an intermediary and therefore more difficult conditions to meet, can be subject to production irregularities.
The composition of honey
Monofloral honey: For honey to be considered monofloral, it must contain at least 50% pollen from the same variety of plant (flower or tree) it designates. Although it uses the term “floral”, it can be nectar honey or honeydew as long as the composition of its honeydew is homogeneous. Specific honey must bear on the label the floral or vegetable origin which makes it unique.
Generally rarer, appellations of origin and labels are gradually awarded to underline their specificity and guarantee the value of these “vintages”:
Polyfloral honey: containing less than 50% of a single plant species are said to be “all-flowered” or Polyfloral. Their heterogeneous composition does not mean that their taste qualities cannot be excellent.
In this category, we will find the honey whose particularities can be linked to the season (spring, summer) or to the territory (region, topography) on which beekeepers collect it.
The texture of honey
All the hive’s honey, therefore, comes from nectars or honeydews. Some stay liquid and others are creamier. This difference comes from the glucose concentration of honey which depends on the properties of the flowers on which these honey were harvested.
Creamy honey: When the beekeepers are harvested, all the honey is liquid and more or less fluid. Depending on their variety, they will become liquid or creamy. It is a living product.
Honey rich in glucose, depending on the plants foraged, are creamier, among them, we find flower honey, rapeseed honey, lime blossom honey, sunflower honey, clover honey …
Their texture is perfect for making delicious sandwiches.
For honey to become liquid again without losing its nutritional qualities, simply put the jar of honey in a double boiler without exceeding 40 degrees. The honey will regain its liquid state and will subsequently recrystallize more or less quickly depending on its glucose content.
Liquid honey: The higher the fructose level and the lower the glucose honey, the longer the honey will remain liquid, among the best known are acacia honey and chestnut honey.
Their fluid texture is ideal for using honey in a recipe.
Over time, all honey eventually freezes, becoming hard and grainy. The speed of this 100% natural crystallization phenomenon varies depending on the glucose and fructose content.
The liquid or creamy state of honey will not affect its shelf life. Whether liquid or creamy, they remain a concentrate of energy and benefits.
Remember that honey is rot-proof, so even crystallized it will still be safe to eat. In order not to rot, honey must always respect the legal humidity limit of less than 18% otherwise microorganisms may develop and traces of mold will appear.
It is best to store your honey in a rather dry place at a constant temperature, whether it is creamy or runny.