Please welcome Jessica to PWN today. A fellow health food enthusiast, Jessica is also a tennis champ, finance whiz, avid biker, and bee guru. Over the past month you've listened to me bash agave nectar and promote raw honey. Well, Jessica is going to explain exactly why raw honey should be your sweetener of choice. And as you'll see, she has a hidden talent: writing. As promised at the end of Friday's blog post, you will laugh today. So here she is!
I like to refer to it as "sweet liquid ambrosia", but you probably know this gift from nature by its common name, honey. I can't exactly imagine how humans first decided to harvest honey (as a thickly covered hive of stinging insects seems to be a bit of a deterrent), but its use has been documented throughout history, with evidence of beekeeping in ancient Chinese, Roman, and Egyptian cultures. With all of honey's nutritional and beautifying properties, no wonder Cleopatra was such a hottie.
What gives honey such powerful qualities? It all starts with how it is made.... (it helps if you hear the next paragraph narrated in Sigourney Weaver's Planet Earth voice):
Honey begins when the bee takes off on its foraging flight. Buzzing to and from each blooming flower, it collects precious nectar. The nectar mixes with the enzymes in the bee’s saliva, an alchemal process that breaks down the complex sugars into simple sugars. The bee then carries it back to the hive where the industrious house bees store it in the walls and fan their wings to reduce the moisture content, rendering it hygroscopic, meaning it is so dry it will pull in moisture from the atmosphere. This is why harvested honey must be stored in sealed containers, and why baked goods made with honey rather than sugar will stay moist longer.
There are many varietals of honey available. Bees will work the nectar within a two-mile radius of the hive so each batch of honey will have slightly different flavor nuances. I like a light alfalfa honey in my morning tea whereas a darker wildflower honey is a richer, more of an after dinner honey. No, I don't have a honey rack next to my wine rack. But that's only because I can't find anywhere that sells them.
Darker honeys will have a higher concentration of antioxidants, but the most important thing to remember when purchasing honey is that it be raw and unfiltered. Honey that has been heated and pasteurized will lose most of its beneficial antioxidants. As in most cases organic is best, but I would rather buy from my local farmers market over a South American honey that has been labeled organic. Enforcement of such labeling is inconsistent, and unless the bees are being interrogated... well I have my doubts.
I use honey as a panacea for any problem, and despite the doubt that clouds my friends’ eyes when I try to talk them into smearing it on their sunburns, it truly does have some amazing natural healing properties. It is antibacterial and antiviral, and will virtually never go bad. It can be used to treat burns, cuts, sore throats, and acne. It can be a cough suppressant, an athletic performance enhancer (makes a great gift for A-Rod!), or a hangover cure. Honey's humectant properties make it a key moisturizing ingredient in many naturally formulated beauty treatments.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy honey:
Honey + almond butter. This is a hotter matchup than Brad and Angelina. Spread on toast, celery, cardboard... it doesn't matter as long as you have this combo it will work. I'm so passionate about this flavor medley that I'd like to stalk down everyone eating PB&J sandwiches and slap them out of their hands before they take the first bite. (Unless of course it was a child, then I'd gently extract the sandwich from their sticky fingers and hastily tell them to say no to drugs.) I just don't know why you'd ever go back to PB&J once you've tasted this.
Honey + grapefruit. Allows you to eat grapefruit with no chance of the sour face.
Honey + goat cheese + any cracker/bread medium. Small time investment, huge deliciousness payout.
Honey + plain yogurt. A much better alternative to sugar laden flavored yogurts, which will spike your blood sugar significantly higher than honey will. I found it surprising how little honey I had to use to attain the sweetness I desired.
Honey can also be used in recipes in place of sugar. The rule of thumb is 2/3 c honey for every 1 c sugar. Since honey is liquid you will want to slightly reduce your overall liquid content by about 1/4 c for every cup of honey. The sugars in honey will also carmelize more quickly so reduce your baking temperature by about 20-30 degrees.
Honey should not be given to infants under 12 months, but should absolutely be given to sick adults acting like infants.
Thank you to Ann, who is sweet as Tupelo honey for letting me ramble on about bees and honey on a forum where people can't visibly walk away from me.
...did I mention she's funny?
Thanks Jessica! You're the best. Please come back soon!