HONEY VARIETALS

Brine’s Fine Honeys

Buckwheat Honey

Origin: USA (Washington)
Taste: Bold; malty; molasses
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is an ancient species, having been cultivated for over 5,000 years. It is native to Southeast Asia. Today it is grown as a crop throughout the world and across the United States. Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not a type of wheat. It is a broadleaf plant, whereas wheat and all other true grains are grasses. Buckwheat is a member of the same botanical family as rhubarb, sorrel and knotweed.

Buckwheat is a hardy plant. It matures quickly, requires no pesticides, and grows well even in poor soils. It is often planted as a second crop of the growing season, following the harvest of the first crop. Buckwheat produces a thick cover of small white blossoms about a month after being sown. The flowers require pollination, as they are self-sterile.

Buckwheat

Cranberry Honey

Origin: USA (Wisconsin, WI)
Taste: Rich; sweet; stewed fruit; mildly astringent
Learn more about my beekeeper source for this honey.

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are one of the few fruits native to North America. Originally named “crane berries” by early Dutch and German settlers, the blossoms resemble the head and neck of a sandhill crane.

Producing around two thirds of the US crop and 50% of the world’s supply, Wisconsin is the cranberry capital of the world, and the area around the small town of Warrens (population 349) is its epicenter.

Cranberries are also grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, and parts of Canada and Chile. Cranberries blossom in Wisconsin from mid-June through early July. Honey bees are brought in to help pollinate the crop at around 2.5 hives per acre. If you see a cranberry marsh in bloom, you begin to appreciate why this honey is not exactly in huge supply.

The dainty pink blossoms have no aroma and don’t always produce enough nectar for a sizeable honey crop. Fun fact: cranberries are not grown in water, but the marshes are flooded periodically for harvest and to build up ice for winter protection of the plants.

The wetland you see in the photo below is part of the larger area of cranberry support land (consisting of natural and man-made wetlands, woodlands and uplands) needed to ensure an adequate water supply. The cranberry marshes are pictured in the background and are being irrigated through raised sprinkler heads.

Minnesota Wildflower Honey

Origin: USA (Central Minnesota)
Taste: Bright; citrus; lime
Learn more about my beekeeper source for this honey

Although not a varietal honey, this polyfloral blossom honey from Central Minnesota is so delicious, it deserves a special place in your flavor arsenal, especially for food and beverage creators from the Midwest. Even when this honey crystallizes, its delicate, fine crystals are wonderful when eaten by the spoonful straight from the jar! As a polyfloral, Minnesota Wildflower Honey does not have one predominant nectar or pollen source. Instead, high levels of pollen from clover, basswood (thus the lovely lime aroma and flavor) and buckthorn, as well as minor pollen from willow and fruit blossoms (pear and plum), point to the nectar sources the honey bees visited to make this delicacy.
White sweet clover
Basswood flowers
Glossy buckthorn
Melilotus or sweet clover was first brought to the United States from Europe and Asia in the late 17th century. Once planted as a forage crop and soil enhancer in the central and upper plains states, white sweet clover and yellow sweet clover are widespread throughout Minnesota and are now considered invasive species because they can crowd out and make the soil less favorable for native plant species. Honey bees love them anyways, and sweet clover is an important source of nectar for honey bees. It is not a coincidence that the genus name means “honey” in Greek. Individual flowers are about 1/4″ long.

Basswood, or American linden or lime tree, is a large, moderately slow growing native tree found throughout Minnesota. Blossoms emerge in July as hanging, branching clusters of 6 to 18 fragrant, pale yellow flowers. Nectar from basswood flowers produces a high-grade honey and provides a characteristically “limey” flavor.

Common buckthorn, also known as European buckthorn, and glossy buckthorn are, like sweet clover, considered invasive species in Minnesota. Both common and glossy buckthorn are native to Europe, where they enjoy widespread use in hedges. As suggested by its name, the branches of common buckthorn are tipped with sharp thorns. Interestingly, glossy buckthorn is a thornless plant. Both varieties flower discretely in May or June.
Minnesota Wildflower Honey is typically harvested in August and September.

Carrot Honey

Origin: USA (Oregon)
Taste: Sharp; full-bodied; caramel; allspice
Learn more about my beekeeper source for this honey.
Carrot blossoms (Photo provided by Oregon State University)
Carrot (Daucus carota) was domesticated from the white wild carrots of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran around the tenth century. The first domestic carrots were purple and yellow in color. Carrots were selectively bred for their orange color by the Dutch in the late 16th century. Most carrots grown today are orange, but purple, black, white, red, and yellow carrots can also be found.

Carrots that are allowed to bloom are not intended to be eaten as vegetables. When the plant blooms, the orange root turns tough, woody, and inedible. Rather, Carrot Honey is made when honey bees pollinate the carrot plants being grown to produce the following year’s carrot seeds. These seeds will then be planted by farmers to yield a vegetable crop. Our Carrot Honey is sourced from Oregon, which produces approximately 45% of the world’s carrot seed.

Seed carrots are planted in August, allowed to overwinter, and are pollinated the following July. Interestingly, the male and female blossoms are different in appearance. Male blossoms are white, while female blossoms have a pale green tint.

Coriander Honey

Origin: USA (Oregon)
Taste: Coconut and anise
Learn more about my beekeeper source for this honey
Coriander blossoms
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is native to the Mediterranean region. It is an ancient plant: manna is likened to coriander seed in the book of Exodus (Ex 16:31) in the Bible, and pieces of coriander seed were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun of Egypt. In the United States, the leaves of the coriander plant are commonly called cilantro (which is the Spanish name for coriander), but elsewhere around the world both leaves and seeds are known as coriander.
Coriander flowers grow in small clusters. They are white or pale pink in color, and have a delicate, lacy appearance. Coriander blooms in the hot weather of midsummer. India is the world’s largest producer of coriander with more than 70% of the total world output. Other major producers include Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Iran, Morocco, Canada and Australia. Coriander has been grown commercially for seed production in central Oregon only since the 1980’s. Honey bees love coriander blossoms!

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