September is National Honey Month
Since the 1980’s September has been “National Honey Month”, in honor of the end of the season for most areas, when beekeepers collect honey from their hives. It’s a time to raise awareness of beekeeping and the benefits of honey.
This National Honey Month, learn more about how honey is made by bees, collected by humans, and how you can support beekeepers in your community.
History and Facts
Humans have been collecting honey for as long as written history. Cave paintings dating over 8,000 years old have been found in Spain depicting humans harvesting honey from wild bees. There have been remains of honey found buried in an ancient tomb over 5,000 years old in the country of Georgia.
Honey was used in ancient Egypt as well, it was used as a sweetener in food, and bees were kept near temples to use the honey as offerings in ceremonies. We know that beekeeping and honey collection were also important parts of daily life throughout history in Greece, India, China, South America, and Israel.
Honey is held as a symbol in many religions across the globe. In Hinduism, honey is one of the “five elixirs of life”. In Judaism, honey is a symbol of the New Year, and on Roshhashanna apple slices dipped in honey are eaten to bring in a sweet new year. In Buddhism, honey plays an important role in Madhu Purnima, or the “Honey Full Moon Festival”. In Christian and Islamic texts, honey is referred to as a healing, nourishing, and healthy food.
How Honey is Made and Harvested
Honey is made from nectar in flowers. Bees collect the nectar from flowers, digest it into simple sugars, then store it inside a honeycomb to save for later. Honeybees produce more honey than their “colony”, or community of bees, needs. Beekeepers extract honey from hives, and sometimes other bee-created materials, such as beeswax. Beeswax is made in the abdomens of worker bees, meant to be used to build honeycombs and to protect honey and eggs.
A single honeybee will visit millions of flowers in their lifetime, inadvertently pollinating the flowers in the process. Honeybees alone pollinate over 80 percent of plant life on Earth. Honeybees can fly up to six miles, and at almost 15 miles per hour.
Why Local Honey?
Consumed in moderation, honey is a more beneficial sweetener than granulated sugar. Honey contains many beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years, from suppressing common cold symptoms, to topical skin healing, as honey has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey is one of the most counterfeit food products on the market. The USDA and other agencies like the National Honey Board test products marketed as honey and have found that many sellers have found ways to dilute what they are marketing as “honey” with other sweetened syrups that bypass purity tests. It’s estimated that up to 70% of products sold as “honey” are not 100% honey.
The best way to make sure what you’re buying is 100% honey? Buy it from a local producer. You can talk to them about their practices and learn more about how they are stewarding healthy honeybee populations as part of Adirondack ecosystems.
Tim and Sue McGarry of Boquet Valley Farm and Apiary in Wadhams, NY talk about how they work with honeybees to make beautiful Adirondack honey:
Honey is one of the only raw products that never spoils. It does not need to be refrigerated, and it never “goes bad”. So it doesn’t hurt to stock up from the beekeepers at your local farmers’ market before the summer market season is over.
Try Something New! A Few Ways to Use Honey
Use it in dressings and sauces
Infuse honey with herbs and spices
Hot honey infused with chili pepper offers a sweet and spicy drizzle to almost everything. It is especially amazing on pizza. But also is great on baked brie, meat, seafood, and stirred into cocktails.
Add a drizzle to baked goods
A sweet staple for toast and sandwiches, homemade honey oatmeal bread is much more simple than you would think.
Where to Buy Local Honey
Wherever local food and products are sold near you! Find farmers’ markets, local food retail locations, and farmstands selling locally harvested honey at AdirondackHarvest.com.
How do you like to enjoy honey? Comment below and let us know.
Photos: First known cave drawings of humans gathering honey found in Spain, estimated to be 8,000 years old