There’s dark treacly heather honey, rich and distinctive in flavour from the ling that blooms across the county’s heathland from July to October. There’s delicate pale honey from oilseed rape fields, ablaze with yellow blooms in springtime, or slightly minty honey from lime trees that burst into flower in July. Then there’s fragrant floral honey that in late spring speaks of apple blossom and in summer of wild meadows and garden flowers.
Like wine, honey is a product that has terroir – in other words, it carries the taste of the particular landscape in which the bees forage for their pollen and nectar.
General honeys, as commonly found in supermarkets, are blends of different honeys that can come from a vast area (including China and the far East). But ‘raw’ or ‘natural’ honey produced from limited areas or particular plants (known as monoflora honeys) and minimally treated, deliver rich, deep flavour.
There are other benefits to buying local honey, too. Industrially produced honey is generally heated to some degree, and filtered to preserve liquidity, destroy pathogens and remove pollen. But most smaller-scale beekeepers don’t process their honey this way. Instead, they simply spin the honey from the frames, and pass it through a strainer to remove bits of wax etc. This means more of the micronutrients and enzymes are preserved, as well as more pollen grains, which are good for keeping hayfever at bay.
Perhaps the most important reason to buy honey from small local producers is that it encourages beekeepers and therefore more bees. Honey is a by-product of Beekeeping. I would love to see more people buying honey from local and small-scale producers rather than supermarkets. And the truth is, honey produced this way is infinitely more delicious.