Honey 101, please! [moved from Florida board]
It would be nice to have some sort of explanation telling us what each different "types" of honey is good for and what the differences are exactly. Wildflowers, orange blossom - honestly, what's the difference? The orange blossom tastes orange-y? And that's better for desserts and maybe not so much for pancakes? Maybe the pancakes taste better flowery instead of orange-y? Oy, where's Honey 101 whenever I need one?!
[We've moved this discussion from the thread at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44331... -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM ]
I wish I had seen this earlier... I happen to know a wee bit about honey and bees.
The types of honey differ, depending on the type of bloom that the bees forage. Wildflower honey is gathered when the bees visit all the various blooms (wildflowers) in the local area. Orange blossom is gathered when bees light on orange blossoms, avacado and palmetto are gathered when bees forage those respective blooms. The differences are as distinct as wine... palmetto and avacado are dark, motor-oil honeys (like a loud cabernet), whereas lighter blooms like Tupelo, Goldenrod, Gallberry and Jamaica Dogwood are more floral (like various pinot grigios).
The different colors of honey are usually related to the time of year that the bees foraged... lighter honey is gathered in spring and darker honey is gathered in the fall. The pollen content when the bees make the honey can be lighter or darker... Lighter, spring honey usually tastes very light and much more floral... darker, fall honey is usually a bit more substantial and the taste can be richer.
As for cooking... it is all about taste... I prefer lighter, floral honey (Jamaica Dogwood) on my pancakes. I take a medium-strength (wildflower) honey in my coffee. I really like the Key Lime honey on my shrimp and seafood. It is similar to wine pairing... what wine goes with what foods? I must say, I have never, ever, taken to Palmetto or Avocado honeys.
The best honey, by far, in all of SoFla is sold through Bees-N-The-Keys.
The company is a family-based operation in the Florida Keys and they are dedicated to no cooking, no preservatives and no additives (the stuff that makes honey taste metallic). The owner keeps all of his hives from Key Largo to Key West. The honey is local and raw... and, truly, delicious. The company does some craft fairs and plant shows (I don't think they have a store yet) where you can literally sample all of the varities before you make a purchase. I dare say, if Frod (I think?) had tasted the honey before he bought it, he would have made a different decision.
I know I am a bit late, but I hope this helps... I'd love to answer any other questions, if they come up...
Excellent info, thank you! I am wondering tho, what about finding good comb honey, as well as royal jelly and propolis (I use the latter two to make a good face wash). I got comb honey from one of the guys at the Pinecrest farmer's market here in Miami, and it tasted awful. I've had several different brands of comb honey, but never one that tasted like it had somehow soured like that!
For a brief "Honey 101", see this article from O Magazine:
For a list of honey types, see the Honey Locator from the National Honey Board.
Unfortunately, though, this site is weak on descriptions of the honey's taste. So take Ruth's advice and taste as many types of honey as you can!
I should have added that most commercial honey is rather bland -- blended so that it doesn't have a distinct flavor. But most good gourmet stores or natural foods stores will have several different kinds of varietal honey. Since honey doesn't spoil (ever), you don't have to worry about opening several jars and then having to use them up.
Honey made from different kinds of pollen can be very different -- what they're best for depends on your taste and the flavor profile you're looking for in that specific dish. While wildflower can vary a lot depending on the flowers blooming in that area or in that season(although most commercial wildflower honey is blended for a uniform taste), orange blossom honey is usually a rather light honey that does taste faintly of oranges. The best way to get a crash "101" course is to try a lot of different honeys and taste the differences for yourself.
How about "The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture"?
There's even a "Search in this Book" function.
It notes that mangrove honey "is light covered but the flavor has a tang that many do not like". That would explain the "motor oil" comment.
This website also gives a description of several types ->
Or you could just ask The Honey Man next Saturday.