Firm, liquid, creamy. White, golden yellow to dark amber. The selection in the supermarket is huge. Not only do you have to decide on consistency and color, but also on taste between lime, rapeseed, fir, heather, acacia and many other types of honey. We explain the differences and the special characteristics of the different types of honey.
A basic distinction is made between two types of honey, namely blossom or nectar honey and honey from honeydew, which is also called forest honey. For the blossom honey, the bees suck the nectar from the blossoms into their honey stomachs with their long proboscis. At the same time, they release pollen from the stamens of the plant with their bodies, dust themselves with it and push it into the pollen baskets of their hind legs. A bee does this up to a thousand times a day. In between, she keeps flying back to the hive to deliver pollen and nectar for honey production.
Forest honey, on the other hand, is not made from flower nectar, but from the excrement of plant-sucking mini insects. Aphids and scale insects suck up and digest the sap of various deciduous and coniferous trees. What they don’t use themselves, they give back in the form of sugar juice, honeydew. The bees collect the remainder and process it into honey. The name forest honey comes from the fact that honeydew is mainly found on spruce, oak and fir trees. Forest honey is liquid and dark in color. It tastes spicier and tart than blossom honey.
If the bees have collected nectar or sugar juice mainly from one plant species, the honey is considered to be of a single variety. This is important for us consumers to know, because each type of honey has its own characteristics and an unmistakable taste.
But how does the beekeeper ensure that his bees only fly to certain plants? The answer lies in the nature of bees. These are usually only a few kilometers away from the hive and they are “blooming”. That is, once they have found a good food source, they fly to it again and again until everything is collected. Beekeepers call such a solid source “Tracht”. If the proportion of a Tracht in the honey is 60 to 80 percent, one speaks of single-variety honey. Shares of other honeys are called Beitracht. To a certain extent, a beekeeper can control which flowers his Bees fly in by placing their hives in specific locations.If the beekeeper is unsure where his honey comes from, he can have it tested for purity in a laboratory.Or he can simply declare it as “blossom honey”. If you buy blossom honey, it may be that it is a single-variety honey that has not been checked. But it can just as well be a honey from different costumes.
countless. In principle, every flowering plant and every tree can have its own traditional costume. It is crucial that there are enough specimens of a plant species around the hive. In Germany, single-variety honey is mainly used
- rapeseed honey
- sunflower honey
- dandelion honey
- Robin honey (acacia honey)
- Lime blossom honey
- heather honey and
- linden honey
produced. As other types of honey – which are not single-variety honey – we mainly have forest honey as well as spring and summer blossom honey.
Anyone who restricts themselves to German, or even better, regional types of honey excludes specialties such as citrus, lavender or thyme honey from their menu, but contributes to the preservation of local biodiversity and supports local beekeepers. In addition, regional honey has a better CO2 balance than imported goods thanks to short transport routes. If the label says “genuine German honey”, preferably in organic quality, then you are doing everything right. By buying organic honey, you ensure that the animals will find plenty of organic wild plants as a food source within a three-kilometer radius. The beehives must also be built from natural raw materials and the use of certain medications against bee diseases is taboo for organic beekeepers. In fact, we also pay attention to these criteria when purchasing our beeswax (from which we make our beeswax wraps and natural soaps, among other things), which comes exclusively from organically certified beekeepers. Proper beekeeping is very important to us! You can also read our interview with Demeter beekeeper Alexander Schlotter .
Pressed honey is not a special variety, but describes the manufacturing process. The honey is not thrown out of the combs as usual, but pressed out. Until the invention of the honey extractor in 1865, pressing was the usual way to get the coveted bee products. The honeycombs were cut or broken out of the hive and then squeezed out. Pressed honey is an original honey specialty that is only available from a few beekeepers today. It contains large amounts of pollen and propolis, the antibacterial resin of the bees. Pressed honey is therefore very healthy and tastes full-bodied.
For the colony of bees, too, squeezing the honeycomb has completely different consequences than being thrown. Since the entire honeycomb structure is destroyed during pressing, the bees have to rebuild the honeycomb over and over again, which means they produce much more fresh wax. What sounds like exploitation is a natural drive for the bees, which they can hardly live out in modern beekeeping. You can find out more about the original extraction of honey and wax in our interview with archaeo beekeeper Dr. Sonja Guber.
Honeycomb honey is even closer to nature than pressed honey. The honeycombs sealed by the bees with wax are served unopened as a whole. Nothing was thrown, pressed, filtered or maybe even stretched here. Small pieces are cut off the honeycomb for consumption. If you don’t mind chewing the beeswax, you will experience a very original, almost archaic taste experience.
Which honey goes with what?
Let’s start with consistency. As a spread, many like the creamy varieties such as rapeseed and sunflower honey or creamy blossom honeys. They can be spread thickly on bread and butter and your fingers stay clean. These varieties are also popular with children because they taste mild. The more liquid varieties are better suited for baking and cooking, such as the floral-mild acacia honey. This also goes well with black tea or mild blue cheese. We particularly like to eat malty varieties, such as heather or forest honey, in combination with sheep or goat cheese. There is hardly anything better: a slice of crusty fresh sourdough bread spread with goat cheese, topped with a layer of spicy-tart, malty dark honey. And already we are in seventh honey heaven.
Photo © Heinrichsgarten® beekeeping , Alexander Schlotter