Honey 3
The final product - 2020 honey
The winter of 2020 was the wettest on record. But this was followed by the months of April and May which proved to be the driest, warmest, and sunniest on record. The bees made full use of this very unusual weather bringing in lots of nectar from the Spring flowers. So much so that some Springtime honey was taken off in the first week in June.

Otherwise the honey is taken off in the second week in September after the flowering of the Himalayan balsam.
This honey sets quite slowly and sometime is still liquid after some years. The honey taste varies from year to year. In 2019 the honey was especially delicious.
A frame of honey ready for extraction.
The cappings produced by the black bee are white.
This National frames holds about
3 lb honey.
Honey composition
honey composition bar chart
The pie-chart shows the average composition of honey. The nectar (mainly sucrose) which the bees collect is broken down into its two main constituents glucose and fructose by the bees adding the enzyme invertase. The proportions of these sugars determine the setting property of the honey. Honey with a higher glucose content granulates rapidly and conversely those with a higher fructose content stay liquid often for many years. Other sugars include maltose.

Other substances include organic acids, mineral elements, and amino acids. These are responsible for producing the very characteristic tastes and aromas of different honeys.
For a detailed review of the composition of honey: see this link.

Local honey also contains pollen grains from those flowers on which the bees have been foraging. Identifying these grains produces a kind of unique fingerprint by which the honey can be shown to be genuinely local.
For some information on how local honey might alleviate hay fever: see this link.
black bee honey frame
Honey fraud
The honey which we get in this area of North East Lancashire - Stonyhurst is in the Forest of Bowland - is from the trees, shrubs, and wild flowers only.
The quantity of honey is consequently quite limited especially considering the wet climate but the quality never fails to disappoint.
The honey is raw, coarse-sieved, and unheated so retaining all the natural flavours and pollen grains.
Honey consumption in Europe far outstrips that which can be produced by European beekeepers. Europe is therefore a net importer of honey. However, the quality of this imported honey leaves much to be desired. See for example an article entitled
"Europe is being flooded with fake honey" Euractiv
In this article the words of Walter Haefeker, head of the European Beekeepers’ Association are quoted :
Most of the honey that you find is labeled blend of EU and non-EU honey – there are no standards. The information on the label tells consumers nothing, except that this honey is not from Mars.”

There is much evidence which points to China as the source of this fake honey. Rice and corn syrups are the main additives. Information on rice syrup for addition to honey is easily accessed on Alibaba.com. Just scroll down the page.

Current EU regulations leave honey producers and consumers unprotected against counterfeit honey imports Pen & Tech

Each local honey contains its own fingerprint of authenticity in terms of the pollen grains it contains. Honey from China is so highly filtered that it is unlikely to contain any pollen which would give it some resemblance of authenticity. So what can be done to safeguard the uniqueness of genuine honey?

MRI Spectroscopy (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a new analytical technique being promoted by Bruker as a cost effective method to identify fraudulent honeys. More detailed information on the use of MRI can be read on the Bruker Biospin web site.
The proportion of water is important. The bees evaporate off water from the nectar collected until the water content is between 17 - 20%. Honey contains yeasts but at this concentration no fermentation occurs. Honey, however, is hygroscopic and if left open moisture will be absorbed. If the water content raises slightly above the critical then fermentation can occur but this is usually not a problem if the honey is used and not allowed to stand for any length of time.

With a pH of about 4 i.e. on the acid side, honey is a natural antiseptic, and can be used with advantage for wound dressing especially for burns. See next page for information on honey's medicinal properties.
It is not too difficult to find examples of nondescript honey on the supermarket shelf.
Next Page: Honey 4: Medicinal Properties
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