A honey dipper delivers the sweet stuff — Photo courtesy of Drew Coffman
There's good reason why Winnie the Pooh was so motivated by “hunny.” As a child, Pooh’s fascination with this sweet nectar seemed nothing more than a small part of a good story. But, not until adulthood did we realize he might have been onto something much bigger.
Honey is much more than just ‘nature's sweetener.’ There are more than 300 varietals, each with defining characteristics of the flower from which it was harvested. Thus, honey is native to different parts of the country, as are the plants from which it's created. For example, fireweed honey, native to the northwestern United States and Canada, is derived from the fireweed herb which, when pollinated, produces a subtle 'water white' nectar preferred by gourmets.
These ten honeys are some of our favorites from around the States. If you don’t live near any of these farms, don’t fret, there are bee farms in every state. A trip to your local farmers market is the perfect stepping stone towards branching out and sampling nature's local treat.
1. Kiawe Honey, Hawaii
$17 for 8 oz.
This coveted honey is harvested from the blossoms of the kiawe tree, in a forest on the island of Hawai’i. The kiawe honey marketed by the Rare Hawaiian Honey Company is also organic, and has won accolades across the globe.
Yes, this single source specialty carries a steeper price tag than most, but one taste and you’ll realize that this isn’t 'most' honeys. With a mouthfeel unlike any other, this creamy white honey has an understated tropical sweetness, making it easy to enjoy alone or dotted on a scone.
2. Eucalyptus Honey, Calif.
$9 for 9 oz.
The eucalyptus tree (brought by way of Australia) thrives in California's warm climate, producing beautiful red, white, yellow and pink flowers that are pollinated for this unique honey. A deep hazelnut color, it has a distinct but light flavor reminiscent of menthol. It's great for brightening up any cup of tea, but also widely used for its health benefits.
As with the oil of the eucalyptus plant, the honey is often rubbed on joints to help relieve muscle pain and joint stiffness. (Should you try this natural remedy, it will be sticky, and you'll want some gauze!)
3.Clover Creamed Honey, N.C.
$9.50 for 8 oz.
At North Carolina's Vintage Bee company, making honey has been a family business since 1985. Located in North Carolina, they have perfected the art of spinning their raw, all-natural clover honey, transforming it into the perfect creamy consistency. The flavor profile fits that of everyday honey with a balanced sweetness reminiscent of vanilla and light floral, almost grassy undertones.
Though good in almost any capacity, a smear of creamed honey on top of a crisp piece of toast gives a lovely contrast, allowing you to appreciate its perfectly smooth texture.
4. Mountain Wildflower Honey, Colo.
$6.95 for 11.5 oz.
Wildflower honey is unique because unlike single source honeys, it can be harvested throughout the U.S., and is not as regionally specific as most varietals. Much like how terroir affects wine, it plays a large part in honey flavor as well. A jar from Honeyville is harvested just above 6,000 feet in Durango, Colo. which lends a hearty, caramel flavor that pairs wonderfully with salty cornbread.
5. Tupelo Honey, Ga.
$7.75 for 1 lb.
Sweetwater Creek Farms harvests their staff favorite Tupelo honey near Ashburn, Ga, close to the Florida line. If you’re a Van Morrison fan, then you may have heard of this southern gem in his 1971 hit. Morrison claims “she’s as sweet as tupelo honey” which is saying a lot given that tupelo is prized for its sweet and delicate buttery flavor. Known for its resistance to granulation, this choice favorite is a great table honey and is often used in baking.
6. Buckwheat Honey, Minn.
$9.50 for 9 oz.
If you find it difficult to decipher different flavor profiles in honey, then try Ames Farms buckwheat honey. Notably stronger, it's easily identifiable not only by its rich dark amber color, but also by its aroma. Strong notes of malt, molasses and grass are not for everyone, but those who like strong flavors are in for a treat. Drizzle buckwheat honey over blue cheese, bake into a cake to give it a deep flavor or simply eat it by the spoonful to help boost your immunity or suppress a cough. No matter how it’s used, you can’t go wrong.
7. Wild Blueberry Blossom Honey, Maine
You may recognize Red Bee honey, or heard of it in passing. These wonderful products have been applauded by honey enthusiasts and press, time and time again, for providing a truly wonderful product. A favorite is the wild blueberry blossom honey. Naturally flavored by blueberry plants in Maine, this medium color, raw honey is well rounded, leaving a berry aftertaste that we just can’t get enough of when stirred into plain yogurt.
8. Wilde Texas Huajilla Honey, Texas
The Huajilla plant is a wild shrub in the acacia family, and though they are related, the honeys are quite different. Huajilla honey, found exclusively in Texas and Northern Mexico is a very light amber with a mild, but full flavor. Texans swear that once you try this honey you'll never want for another honey again. If plain honey isn’t your thing, the versatility of huajilla makes it great for everything from tea to honey barbeque chicken wings.
9. Orange Blossom Honey, Fla.
$6 for 1 lb.
Bee-Haven Honey Farm in Florida prides themselves on having some of the purest orange blossom honey around, and once you try it, you’ll see why. With the abundance of citrus crops in Florida, most “orange blossom” honey ends up harvested from a variety of citrus trees including lemons, grapefruits and limes, not just oranges. Bee-Haven’s bees are placed in established orange groves, producing a very sweet, slightly citrusy honey. Add a couple of teaspoons to your homemade salad dressing and toss with a favorite green – it brightens any salad.
10. Spring Blossom Chunk Honey, Mass.
Chunk honey is very much what it sounds like: a chunk of the honeycomb that has been packaged along with the honey. New to some, but old tradition for others, eating the crunchy honeycomb has been going on for hundreds of years. Carlisle Honey sells their spring blossom honey from Massachusetts with the comb and what a treat it is. This raw honey (and comb) is best enjoyed alongside a diverse cheese plate and with a glass of your favorite wine.
If you suffer from allergies, a teaspoon of your own local raw and unfiltered honey is a wonderful side-effect-free option to help combat seasonal reactions. The pollen in the honey works similarly to that of a vaccine, giving your body small doses of the allergen to hopefully combat them.
No added coloring, preservatives or flavorings, honey is Mother Nature's cure-all. From satisfying a sweet tooth to its many medicinal properties and vast culinary uses, it could be considered the world's purest product. Luckily, since honey will never spoil, you can stock up on your favorites and savor them forever.