Honey – that delectable, sweet, sticky treat. We all know how tasty it is. But have you ever stopped to appreciate how amazing it is? This delightful substance is made from the nectar of flowers, all thanks to the bees! The process of getting the honey from their hives to your house is truly an amazing one! Thanks to an invite from the National Honey Board, I had the pleasure of traveling with a handful of other bloggers throughout South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa last month, learning all about the story of honey! Of course, the main characters in this story are the bees! Between allergies and those painful stings, bees sometimes get a bad rap! But, bees really are one of the most important creatures on the planet! Did you know that about one-third of our diet is derived from insect-pollinated plants and honey bees are responsible for 80% of this pollination?! So important to our ecosystem! We got to see bees up close and personal at the family-owned Hollmann Apiaries (bee farm) in South Dakota! Upon arrival, we suited up in our protective bee gear and headed out to the fields with the hives. The former biology teacher in me loved every second (though I can’t say I’m super fond of wearing a bee suit). Tim Hollmann took time to explain to us all about the bees, the hives, how they manage their apiaries, and of course, how they harvest the honey! It’s an amazing science! The Hollmann Apiaries contains approximately 3,000 hives. And, the population of one healthy hive in mid-summer averages between 40,000 and 80,000 bees. So, you can do the math…it’s A LOT of bees! All those bees then pollinate A LOT of flowers. In fact, bees can visit over 2 million flowers just to make enough for ONE POUND of honey! Did you ever realize how much incredible work went in to making that little honey bear bottle that sits in your pantry?! They certainly call them busy bees for a reason. The science of bees is just so incredibly fascinating and something you need to know very well if you’d like to join the 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers in the United States (most of which are hobbyists with less than 25 hives). While learning about the different types of bees – and the different parts of the hive, we were lucky enough to see the queen bee and some of the larvae in the comb. So cool! Did you know a healthy queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs a day?! WHOA! We also got to see how honey is harvested from the hives! The Hollmann’s have a honey extraction facility which might seem sort of small. But, they can process 12,000 pounds of honey a day there. It’s incredible, especially since the honey harvesting process hasn’t really changed much in the last 100 years (except for some better machinery). To extract the honey, the honeycomb frames are removed and the wax caps (created by the bees to store the honey) are scraped off. Those frames with exposed honey then travel into a large centrifuge which spins the honey out from the the comb. From there, the honey gets separated from the wax (which is another product that commercial beekeepers sell) and the honey is sent into a large tanker or drums. Those tankers/drums filled with honey then travel to a processing/bottling facility. The second day of our trip we had the pleasure of touring Sue Bee Honey in Sioux City, Iowa see the process in action. I had never been in any kind of manufacturing plant or bottling facility. So, I found the whole thing absolutely fascinating! The beauty of it all is just how incredibly unprocessed the honey really is. Truly! The basic gist is that it’s heated to a specific temperature to make it easier to work with and to break down any crystallization (*note- the crystallization is a completely natural thing that happens to ALL honey over time. It’s perfectly safe to eat and still use. You can even warm to break down the crystals again). It’s then strained/filtered to remove any excess wax, bee or pollen particles, and then it’s bottled! That’s it. Just one ingredient – pure, all-natural honey. From hive to your home – the process is truly incredible! And then the fun begins…getting to use your honey. Liquid honey is what you’re used to seeing most often, but it is sold in other forms as well. If you can get your hands on some spun honey (also possibly called whipped/cremed), buy it!! It may be one of the most incredible things I’ve ever tasted! SO good. Then, there are also many different varieties of honey available! In fact, there are over 300 varietals of honey found in the United States alone – so great for experimenting in the kitchen! We had the pleasure of doing a honey varietals food pairing tasting, which was incredible!
I highly recommend planning your own honey tasting party! In fact, you can visit honeylocator.com to find the varietals that are available in your area. As you experiment with different honeys, you’ll also want to check out Marie Simmons book, Taste of Honey, which provides information & recipes for 40 different honey varietals! She was on hand during our trip to help share information on cooking with honey. It truly is an amazing & versatile item to cook with. You can be used in baking, in sauces, dressings, & marinades, as a glaze and more. Plus, it’s anti-microbial so it literally never spoils (honey was found in the tomb of King Tut, still edible)!
Inspired by all of our talk of honey and all the delicious honey recipes we ate in our two days of the trip, I found some mouthwatering recipes that all use honey. There’s a great variety on the list below…and they all sound SO good!
25+ Mouthwatering Honey Recipes
1. Honey Ginger Barbecue Chicken | A Dash of Sanity
2. Mini Honey Cornbread Loaves | Erren’s Kitchen
3. Honey Glazed Carrots | A Cedar Spoon
4. Roasted Coconut and Honey Almond Granola | Chelsea’s Messy Apron
5. Outback Steakhouse Honey Wheat Bushman Bread | Food, Folks and Fun
6. Honey Gingerbread Cookies | Homegrown and Healthy
7. Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges with Zesty Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce | Floating Kitchen
8. Honey Chipotle Chicken | Delicious Meets Healthy
9. Honey Chipotle Roasted Peanuts | Amuse Your Bouche
10. Honey Mustard Salmon | The Lemon Bowl
11. Honey Wheat Pancakes With Honey Butter Syrup | Tastes of Lizzy T’s
12. Grilled Peaches With Cinnamon Honey Ricotta | Recipe Runner
13. Honey Buttermilk Bread | Restless Chipotle
14. Honey & Maple Roasted Parsnips | Erren’s Kitchen
15. Honey Filled Breakfast Popsicles | Kitchen Sanctuary
16. Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli | Homemade Hooplah
17. Honey Hatch Chile Chicken Sliders | Restless Chipotle
18. Easy Honey Dijon Baked Chicken | Family Food on the Table
19. Salted Honey Almond Squares | A Dash of Texas
20. Honey Sriracha Lime Wings | Garlic and Zest
21. Honey Whipped Feta | Hidden Fruits and Veggies
22. Honey Raspberry Jam | Cooking Up Clean
23. Honey Garlic Chicken | I Save A to Z
24. Spicy Sriracha Honey Chicken Stir Fry | Jessica Gavin
25. Slow Cooker Honey Soy Glazed Chicken | Erren’s Kitchen
26. Broiled Pineapple with Honey Ricotta | Some the Wiser
YUM!!! You can find even more delicious honey recipes on the National Honey Board’s site, along with resources about Cooking with Honey and Storing Honey. And, don’t forget that honey has many beyond culinary! Honey also provides an all-natural energy boost, acts as a natural
cough suppressant, and is an effective natural skin moisturizer! So you can whip up some delectable honey treat to eat and then make some homemade honey beauty products too!
What’s most amazing to you about the story of honey? What honey recipe(s) are you most excited to try?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the National Honey Board & The Motherhood. All opinions, experiences, photographs, and love of bees are entirely my own!