In my kitchen, honey is a staple. I always have at least two to three jars on hand, ensuring I can add its complex, layered flavors (which vary greatly depending on which bees made it and which flowers they were sippin’ on) to just about anything I’m whipping up. From stirring a spoonful into hot tea to making a sweet, spicy glaze for chicken thighs, the uses for my favorite of Mother Nature’s gifts are almost endless. And like anything of value, I treat this liquid gold with the appropriate respect. That means always getting the good stuff. Translation: I only buy raw, local honey. If you don’t know the difference, here’s a primer:
- The honey you see in the grocery store may not even be 100-percent honey; some of it includes other ingredients. Plus, it has often been pasteurized, which destroys honey’s health-benefitting goodies including vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3. On the flipside, un-pasturized, un-processed raw honey retains all of its inherent minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. It also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Raw honey has been proven to aid in digestion, strengthen your immune system, balance blood sugar and soothe a wicked sore throat, too.
- Raw honey is great, but local raw honey is even better since it contains pollen that is specific to where you live — and breathe. Some folks claim this helps lessen the effects of seasonal allergies. Plus, you’re supporting area farms and beekeepers, so it’s a win-win. And to sum up the reasons to buy raw, local honey: It tastes so much better!
- Check out this video (produced by the fab team at Big Dreamz Creative) on readlean.org (Lean magazine's website) to see how some backyard beekeepers in Montgomery, Ala. raise their bees and harvest their honey.
I’ve been known to eat honey straight from the jar, and my other go-to honey dish is equally easy to enjoy: a peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich. My dad introduced me to this simple pleasure when I was a kid, and it has far out-ranked the PB&J sammy in my book ever since.
Two of my more grown-up honey-dos are great ways to enhance the taste of summer’s berry bounty. I’ve yet to have a bad day when I started it with a breakfast of plump blueberries mixed with plain Greek yogurt and topped with a generous drizzle of honey.
And if you like mojitos, try this: Toss blackberries and watermelon chunks (or balls if you’re feeling fancy) in a syrup made from 2 parts honey, 1 lime juice and a little fresh mint. It is sweet, tart, refreshing, and did I mention sweet? Basil in place of the mint works well too.
Oh, and here’s a tip. If, for some odd reason, your honey sits around long enough to form crystals, transform it back to liquid by sitting the jar in a pot of warm (but never boiling) water and stirring it. Don’t microwave it!
Last thing: Big news for all my Alabama peeps: Barber Berry Farm in Millbrook is pulling honey right now and taking orders on a first-come, first-served basis. Check out their website and get your name on the list!