Saturday, October 15, 2011

Clean Eating Honey: Variety is the Sweet Part of Life

Most people really don't stop to contemplate honey. It is syrupy, tannish brown , and sweet - end of story. However, if you move your hand away from picking up the funny plastic jar shaped like a bear on the grocery shelf , you may find multiple different varieties of honey available to you. If you go to a store like Whole Foods or a natural food store - you may be quite surprised at the extensive  
( and confusing ) selection of honey.

There are over 30 different varieties of honey generally available in the US. However, most are quite rare. If you happen to come upon someone at a farmer's market selling honey - make sure to get yourself a bottle. Fresh honey that isn't heavily filtered and heated is a treat not to be missed.

I've listed the most common varieties, and a little recap on each.

Alfalfa honey, produced extensively throughout Canada and the United States from the purple or blue blossoms, is light in color with a subtle spicy profile and mildly scented floral aroma. Its delicate nature doesn’t overpower other flavors, making it a favorite choice for chefs for their baked foods and a fine table honey for tea lovers. Not as sweet as most honey types, it is a preferred choice for combining with other ingredients or enjoying straight from the jar.

Buckwheat honey is produced in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as in eastern Canada. It is dark, full-bodied, and rich in iron -- a key reason which it's popular with honey lovers. Buckwheat honey has been found to contain more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys. It is perhaps the strongest and darkest of honey varieties. Most experts recommend using a strong-tasting type of honey, such as buckwheat for mead production, since the honey is diluted.However, if you like molasses - you'll love buckwheat honey.

Originating from Canada and New Zealand, Clover honey is one of the most widely available and popular honey varieties. White clover in particular is grown as a widespread blooming pasture crop and is a major nectar source in many parts of the world. This classic honey has such a pleasingly mild sweet that I find very easy to accept and perfect for use in light sauces, dressings and baking. Depending on the location and source, clover honey varies in color from water white to light amber to amber.

Orange blossom honey, often a combination of citrus sources, is usually light in color and mild in flavor with a fresh fruity scent, and a fragrant citrus taste. Orange blossom honey originated from Spain/ Mexico but is produced in many countries including Florida, Southern California and Texas.

Sage honey, primarily produced in California, is light in color, heavy bodied and has a mild but delightful flavor. It is extremely slow to granulate, making it a favorite honey variety among honey packers for blending with other honeys to slow down granulation.

Clear yellow in color, with a characteristic greenish glow, Tupelo honey is a premium honey produced in northwest Florida. It is heavy bodied and is usually light golden amber with a greenish cast and has a mild, distinctive taste. Because of the high fructose content, Tupelo honey is one of the sweetest honey varieties and it hardly granulates.

Also known as "multifloral" or "mixed floral" honey, Wildflower honey is often used to describe honey varieties from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources. Its color can vary from very light to dark and flavor range from light and fruity to tangy and rich, depending on the mix from the different seasonal wildflowers.