Honey is one of the world’s oldest food sources. Images of people collecting honey are depicted in cave paintings that date back 8,000 years. In recent years, businesses across Sonoma County have launched honey hives, giving us a variety of options when searching for this golden nectar.
Honey is considered to be the only food that does not spoil. Because it does not go bad, it can be kept at room temperature, which keeps it from crystalizing too quickly, as it will if stored in the fridge. If it does crystalize, you can easily be remedied this issue by simply running the jar under a stream of warm water or soaking it in a bowl until it transforms back into a sweet flow. If your honey comes in plastic containers, move it to glass before you attempt this rejuvenation process. Also, make sure that the temperature is not too high. If you cook the honey, you will kill its beneficial enzymes.
The biggest risk related to honey is understanding where it’s sourced, which yet again lends credence to the idea of “buy local.” Because the United States consumes far more honey than we produce, we are at the mercy of imported products. Due in part to rising honey prices, these imports can be ripe for adulteration.
Although the United States does not even rank in the top 10 countries for honey consumption per person, we are the second largest consumer as a whole, right after China. (The top three consumers per capita are Central African Republic, New Zealand and Slovenia). Unfortunately, our consumption is around 500-million pounds per year but our production is just 150-million pounds. That annual 350-million pound honey shortfall is filled mostly with imports from China, which produces almost 1 billion pounds of honey every year, but only consumes roughly three-quarters of that amount. As with many imports, especially food-related products, there are concerns about the authenticity of each product since additives are often a cheaper solution. For more information on this topic, check out the Netflix series “Rotten.”
Here in our region, Buddy’s Farm produces local honey and came to my attention because owner Gerald Leuschen, who attended St. Vincent High, is also an excellent Santa-for-hire. Buddy’s currently has honey from hives in both Novato and Tiburon and are looking to expand to Sebastopol this coming spring in order to cultivate honey from the blackberries that line the creeks and pastures.
The Tiburon honey is very sweet, with hints of holiday spices due to the local wildflowers and eucalyptus trees. It has a lower moisture content so it is creamy and spreadable. It is great for cooking or eating straight out of the jar, which is how Gerald prefers it.
The Novato bees harvest from a wider variety of wildflowers, giving that honey a mildly sweet flavor, with a touch of fruit and molasses. This one has a higher moisture content so tend to remain more fluid and is great for tea and for making sauce.
Buddy’s Farm honey comes in quarts, which contain approximately 3 pounds of honey for $25, or $15 for half quarts. Beeswax, honeycomb and propolis are also available from Buddy Farm’s by special order. Do not confuse propolis with beeswax, which is used to create the cell walls of the hive, or royal jelly, which is nutrient-rich food fed to honey bee larvae and to queens. Also called “bee glue,” propolis is said to have many health benefits and is often recommended for cleaning wounds, such as minor burns, as well as treating cold sores and inflammation.