Comb Honey Corner

November 2014


by Ray Nabors

Holiday time is honey time. One way to get your Christmas shopping list shortened is to give your friends honey for Christmas. Most folks like honey anyway, but comb honey is special. Our comb honey here in the middle of the country along the lower Mississippi River is some of the best tasting honey in the world. I know everyone thinks their honey is the best around.

Taste depends on the honey you consumed as a child. The comb honey here is light yellow in color and would be favored by most people if put to a taste test. Honey preference varies from dark to light or in between. Sage honey is nearly white and on the Great Plains it is highly sought after, but I prefer the taste to our honey here. In the Northeast many people prefer the dark flavor of buckwheat honey. Most people here in the Great River Valley would not like honey that dark. When I was a lad, I preferred our local honey made from Tulip Poplar tree flowers. It is dark, thick with a reddish tint if you shine light through it. It has an after taste of molasses. Many people here in Missouri do not like the Tulip Poplar honey, but it is preferred by many in Tennessee where those trees are so common. Like beauty in the eye of the beholder, honey flavor is in the taste buds of the consumer. One person’s treasure is another person’s bee feed. Local honey is most preferred by local people for good reason. Their taste buds recognize that honey as what honey should taste like.

If we had a panel of honey tasters from across the country, I think almost anyone would like honey produced in the Lower Mississippi River Delta. The reason would be a lack of strong flavor. The honey here would taste like buckwheat honey if you added a pound of buckwheat honey to a barrel of our honey.

So what is the nectar source? Most of it is soybean honey. There is an abundance of weed species around and in our soybean fields. The bees add that yellow color by collecting nectar from a variety of wild flower plants that also bloom here while soybeans are in bloom. The light yellow color of our honey here is probably from carotenoids produced by the flowers from which the nectar was gathered. Even clover honey will overwhelm the honey flavor of this area. That makes my customers here very picky about their honey. Our extracted honey is a bit darker with a little stronger flavor. The honey here would not be recognized as local anywhere else. Neither would the honey where you live. The point is not all honey is created equal and your local comb honey is the best where you live.

We have mentioned before that comb honey tastes even better than extracted honey because there is no oxidation in comb honey. Those little bee jars we call honey comb packed by the bees protects the flavor of that honey beyond anything we mere beekeepers can do. So why, comb honey is less recognized by many people for its superior flavor currently? Because comb honey is not as common as it was 20 years ago. It was much more common 100 years ago. Up until 1900 comb honey was the most common sweet substance available. There was a time in history when comb honey was almost the only sweet substance consumed anywhere. Going back to the earliest times of beekeeping, comb honey had the value of precious metals.

Dark honey is more mineral rich than light honey. There are also enzymes in honey which are mostly added by the bees, but some are from plant sources. Honey also contains proteins. The type and concentration of proteins varies from region to region. Some protein is from the bees and other proteins are from the plants visited. Honey remains a source of multiple amino acids in small quantities. These building blocks of proteins are unique to honey produced in your particular location. Vitamins are contained in small amounts and again vary from one location to another. The delightful aroma and flavor of honey are remembered from childhood. That is why people prefer their local honey.

Beekeeping practices and processing affect the flavor and aroma of honey. Pure comb honey without travel stain has not been affected in any way that changes the flavor or aroma. You might wonder why we are devoting a whole article about honey in the Comb Honey Corner. It is because every beekeeper needs to educate his customers and potential customers about the health benefits of honey. People need to know that everyone needs to eat local honey every day. The flavor of honey is at its peak in the comb where the bees placed it. The health benefits are the most pure when honey is consumed just as it comes from the bees stored within honey comb. Comb Honey is indeed one of the healthiest foods on earth.

Recently, a veterinarian has been using some of my comb honey in his veterinary practice. He specializes in emergency surgery for wounded dogs. His practice involves dogs that are severely injured. Once the wounds are cleaned and treated, he puts comb honey on the wounds to draw out the moisture and reduce the onset of infection. His opinion is that nothing else works any better than or as fast as honey direct from the comb. That property may have something to do with the reason honey was so valuable in ancient times. We are rediscovering the health benefits of honey. Honey was the secret medicine that saved the lives of wounded Egyptian soldiers. Today people do not consider honey as a medicine, but many are finding it has almost magical medicinal powers.

“A dab of honey on cuts, burns, and abrasions is both soothing and will protect you from infection, scaring and swelling. Eat a teaspoon of local honey every day to relieve allergy symptoms. Your immune system will become accustomed to local pollen in the honey. A dose of honey will help relieve insomnia by releasing serotonin in your brain to calm you down and help induce sleep. The Honey Toddy will relieve constipation. Stir 2 tablespoons of honey in a cup of warm water and drink it down. To relieve diarrhea, use the same tonic followed by a tablespoon of honey in a half cup of fruit juice.”

That is the statement on one of my bee labels. You can get a copy of the label from Amy’s Bee Labels (amysbeelabels@hotmail.com). The composition is my gift to you this holiday season. All of those statements about honey have been proven to work. What other properties of honey would enhance our health? There is little scientific study into the ...