Posts Tagged: honey
It's Valentine's Day and it's a honey of a day.
Valentine cards proclaim "Bee Mine" and "Bee My Valentine."
Invariably, there's a happy honey bee buzzing around a flower on a Valentine's Day card. With the onset of colony collapse disorder, the smile may be fading a bit, but the honey bee is still very much a part of Valentine's Day.
“Honey is nature’s best and sweetest sweet,” said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who does research at both UC Davis and Washington State University. “It tastes sweeter than sugar, so you use less when you’re cooking with it.”
“Also it comes in as many flavors as there are bee flowers,” she said. “It’s a high-energy simple, natural sweet. Athletes use it for a quick pickup.” Each tablespoon of honey provides 17 grams of carbohydrates or 64 calories.
Honey, she said, is one to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar—and that’s especially “sweet” on Valentine’s Day when folks partake of such dishes as honey-baked ham, honey-mustard chicken, whole wheat honey bread and assorted honey desserts. And then there’s mead, or honey wine.
The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime; on one collection trip, she visits 50 to 100 flowers. The workers in a beehive may collectively travel 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers “just to gather enough nectar to make a pound of honey,” Cobey said.
Depending on the location, the average healthy hive can yield from 50 to 500 pounds of honey a year. “In Canada they get crops of 300 to 500 pounds—surplus harvest,” Cobey said. “It’s about 50 pounds here. This is their winter feed.”
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty says the bees’ floral source determines the color and flavor of honey.
The standard colors are water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber, he said. The lighter colors tend to be mild and the darker colors, more robust.
"The milder flavors are good for drizzling over pancakes and oatmeal or for vegetable dishes," said Mussen, who writes the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. "The darker, more robust colors, are excellent recipe ingredients, providing substantial honey flavor and resistance of the final product to 'drying out.'"
"For great lemonade," he said, "try mixing one cup of freshly squeezed lemon with one cup of liquid honey, and add water to fill a quart."
Now that sounds like a honey of lemonade on a honey of a day!
Youngsters like to joke about what a honey bee says when she returns to the hive: "Honey, I'm home!"
Honey...what is it?
The National Honey Board defines honey as "the substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees. The definition of honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance. This includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners."
Honey ranges in color from nearly white to light amber to nearly black. The nectar source determines the color.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, jars of multicolored honey grace the windowsill of the conference room. As the sun sets, the colors are dazzling.
Below, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Laidlaw facility, and beekeeper-junior specialist Elizabeth Frost show four jars of honey.
It was delightful hearing UC Davis nutritionist and fitness expert Liz Applegate extol the virtues of honey at the 31st annual Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, held recently in Healdsburg.
Like many of you, we've always loved honey. Watching Father tend the bees and extract the honey seemed miraculous. But the end product--the amber-colored honey--this was heaven itself.
Honey, however, is more than just a sweetener.
"I always have my athletes consume honey before and during strenuous exercise,” said Applegate, who directs sports nutrition at UC Davis and serves as nutritionist for the Oakland Raiders.
“I recommend honey--honey should be part of a good refueling strategy,” she said.
Nationally renowned, Applegate is highly sought as a keynote speaker at industry, athletic and scientific meetings. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from UC Davis, where she teaches undergraduate nutrition classes that exceed a 2,000 enrollment annually. Her enthusiasm and expertise led to a 2009 UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.
But back to the honey.
Honey, a rich source of carbohydrates, “provides a quick source of energy,” Applegate said. It’s easy to carry (in packets), easy to consume (no chewing), easy to digest and is easily assimilated. Plus, it tastes good, is inexpensive and easily obtainable, she noted.
Unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants collected from the flowers that bees visit. The list includes niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Honey is also considered an effective antimicrobial agent, used to treat minor burns and scrapes and to soothe sore throats; and as a beauty agent.
And oh, the honey that's available.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and the 2008-09 president of WAS, says more than 300 different kinds of honey are found worldwide. The color, flavor and fragrance are closely linked to the bees’ floral visits.
Show me the honey.
The Honey People
If you attend the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18 and stop by Briggs Hall between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you'll get a taste of honey.
In fact, six tastes of honey.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, will provide six different flavors of honey: Eastern buckhweat, redwood forest, orange blossom, California sage, Northwest raspberry and Georgia gallberry.
Here's the procedure: you scoop up six toothpicks, one per honey sample. You dip a toothpick into a container of honey (no double-dipping!) and then you discard the toothpick..
The darker honeys are Eastern buckwheat, redwood forest and Georgia gallberry; medium color, Northwest raspberry; and the lighter ones are orange blossom and California sage.
You can almost catch the buzz as you taste the honey. Honey differs in flavor and color, depending on the nectar source (blossoms) that the honey bees visit. Some 300 different varieties of honey are available for sale in the United States. In general, the lighter the color, the milder the flavor.
For more information on honey, visit the National Honey Board's Web site.
Questions about bees? Colony collapse disorder? Bee behavior? Queen bees, worker bees and drones? Why beekeepers wear light-colored clothing and don't eat bananas before visiting the hive? Mussen will be happy to answer them.
Honey bee on sage