When many people buy honey, they simply go to the grocery store. Most of the time, they’ll only find a couple of options: the honey that comes in a cute bear bottle, an organic variety, and—on occasion—the odd unique-flavored honey. Anyone who has sampled local, raw honey knows what a shame this is. There are hundreds of different types of honey out there, and all the best ones come from your local beekeeper. Honey bees visit different plants and flowers when foraging for nectar, and this variety of flora influences the taste of the resulting honey. This means that the flavor, color, and overall experience can vary widely with every jar of raw, local honey you purchase. Are you curious to know more about the different varieties of honey? Here’s a rundown of some of the most common honey choices.
When honey bees take nectar from the blossoms of Robinia pseudoacacia (or the black locust tree), they create acacia honey. This is among the most popular honey varieties. Its classic amber color and sweet, faintly floral flavor provide a traditional honey experience that sweetens your tea or oatmeal without affecting the original taste. Acacia honey has high fructose levels and low glucose levels, meaning it will last a long time on the shelf without crystalizing. This also makes it a popular choice for diabetics, who have to steer away from the high glucose levels in many other honeys.
This honey boasts a dark color and a strong, spicy flavor that make it perfect for meads and marinades. Buckwheat honey comes from the northern United States—including Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania—as well as some eastern regions of Canada. This North American variety is rich in iron and other essential nutrients. It also contains more antioxidants than lighter honeys.
Another classic variety, clover honey is a popular choice all around the world. It has a light, sweet, floral flavor that makes it a versatile ingredient. Whether you’re baking, mixing sauces or dressings, or simply adding honey to your tea or biscuit, the pleasant sweetness of clover honey won’t let you down. Clover honey comes from many different regions across the world, including its original sources of Canada and New Zealand. Because of this variety, the honey can range in color from a light amber to a creamy white.
Eucalyptus honey originally came from Australia, but you can now find it in California as well. It gets its unique flavor from—you guessed it—eucalyptus plants near the honey bees’ hive. This creates an herbal flavor with a hint of menthol. Eucalyptus honey is extraordinary for medicinal purposes, making it a popular choice to stir into tea when you’re fighting a cold or respiratory infection. Like many of the different honey varieties, eucalyptus honey’s antibacterial properties also make it a great salve for minor scrapes or burns.
With a translucent color and sweet yet complex taste, fireweed honey is a wonderfully unique honey variety. Similar to buckwheat honey, fireweed honey makes a great ingredient for savory meals. It’s popular in marinades, glazes, and other tasty grilling opportunities. Buckwheat honey also has a unique buttery texture that makes it a prime option in baking as well as grilling or smoking.
Heather honey is less sweet than many of the other different varieties of honey. It has a strong, pungent flavor that borders on bitter. Its strong taste goes well with its thick, rich amber color. It may not be your first option for sweetening your cereal, but it works remarkably well in meat or seafood dishes. Use it to create a gloriously smoky marinade and to cook up a gourmet summer barbecue. Heather honey also serves as an excellent source of protein.
This honey variety evokes pictures of the perfect summer scene: a field of wildflowers swaying in the gentle breeze as honey bees come and go in their search for pollen and nectar. Wildflower honey comes from hives that forage in a variety of local wildflowers, creating a unique flavor, color, and intensity in each and every bottle. Generally speaking, this honey variety is light and fruity in flavor. Wildflower honey is also a good way to fight localized seasonal allergies—a property that comes from the local wildflowers the bees used to make it.
If you’re looking for something to put in your bedtime tea, look no further than a bottle of local linden honey. This variety boasts strong medicinal properties, including a sedative that eases bouts of anxiety or insomnia. Many honey-lovers also choose it to ease symptoms of colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. Linden honey has a delicate, woodsy aroma and a light yellow color to match.
Orange Blossom Honey
Any manufacturer can add orange flavor to their honey, but the real stuff comes from honey bees foraging on citrus plants. Rather than a heavy, perfume-like scent, true orange blossom honey has a fresh, mild citrus scent. It also has a flavor to match, creating a unique, pleasantly fruity taste. Orange blossom honey boasts a high level of antioxidants that naturally boost your immune system and add to a healthy, balanced diet.
Don’t let the name fool you—sourwood honey actually has a sweet, buttery taste similar to that of caramel. As a result, it’s a popular ingredient to spread on toast, biscuits, and other fresh baked goods. Sourwood honey gets its name from the sourwood trees of the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. In addition to being the ideal choice for anyone with a sweet tooth, sourwood honey provides many of the healing properties of other honey varieties, including anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and local allergy relief.
Tupelo honey stands out as one of the sweetest honey varieties you’ll ever taste. This honey comes from the swamps of Florida and Georgia, which means beekeepers need special equipment and care to harvest it. This puts it on the more expensive side of honey varieties, but the distinct, iconic flavor is worth the cost. Along with its unique flavor comes a distinctive light amber color that occasionally bears a faint green undertone.
Are you excited to see what kind of honey your honey bees produce? You can buy bees, equipment, and all the resources you need for a successful honey harvest at Kelley Beekeeping.
Do you have a favorite honey variety that’s not on this list? Share it with us in the comments below!