honeyfinalHoney bees have had it rough lately. When things are going well, it takes on average, 60,000 bees traveling as much as 55,000 miles to visit more than two million flowers to produce just one pound of honey! If you take into account marauding bears and skunks, large scale insecticide spraying and the very serious Colony Collapse Disorder, life for a honey bee ain't so sweet. Thank goodness scientists are finally getting a handle on the mysterious disorder (it looks like a combination of a fungus and a virus may be the cause) that could make not only honey scarce but over 90 kinds of crops that farmers rely on honey bees to pollinate.

The bees that seem to be taking the brunt of the crisis are the ones who are hauled around the continent on giant semi trucks servicing farms and orchards in the South in the early spring, working their way north to the alfalfa fields in the Dakotas and Canada.

The kinds of honey that we sell at PFI are, for the most part, varietal honeys from bees who don't get trucked all over the place and they aren't doing as badly. When bees collect nectar they have the habit of collecting from just one kind of flower, say cranberries or sunflowers, until they collect all that they can and then they move on to a new kind of flower. Some of these flowers give the honey wonderful characteristics like the strong, dark, molasses-like buckwheat, but others, like alfalfa are very light in both color and taste. Lavender honey has a very pronounced, well, lavender flavor while acacia has a hint of vanilla. Linden honey has a light menthol/mint taste and is used as a home remedy for colds. Australian leatherwood has a strong floral flavor. Fireweed honey is
very delicate and buttery.

Another characteristic that varies between flowers is how long it takes for the honey to start to crystalize. Some honeys, like the famous tupelo from Florida never crystalize while honey from canola blossoms can granulate just days after harvest. If your honey has crystalized and you want to get it back to its liquid state just heat it up with the closed jar immersed in hot tap water until it melts and looks clear again, but there's nothing wrong with using it
as is. It won't drip off your toast in the morning like liquid honey alway does.

There are so many wonderful ways to serve these different varieties of honey. Like the classic Parmigiano-Reggiano, broken up into little pieces and drizzled with dark, slightly bitter Italian chestnut honey. Fresh figs stuffed with sweet, creamy Greek manouri served with a drizzle of nice Greek mountain thyme honey is another.
You can use honey as a glaze on roasting meats or sweet potatoes. Darker honeys are wonderful in home made baked beans in place of molasses. My favorite fillo recipes all have honey in them. You can substitute honey in most recipes that call for sugar, using 3/4 cup of honey for every cup of sugar called for.