Honey Hunter Explains About Runny Honey and Set Honey

Raw British HoneysWhat sort of honey eater are you? Do you like to dip your spoon into a jar of deliciously runny honey like Ogilvy’s new raw Borage honey, or do you prefer your honey to be set like the raw British Wild Woodland Honey?

Do you know your runny honey from your set honey? Why does honey sometimes set or crystallize? What is this all about? If you buy runny honey and it crystallizes, does it mean there is something wrong? Well, no – quite the opposite. The Honey Hunter explains why.

But first a word about some terms – there are a few words that are used to describe the same phenomenon: set, granulated or crystallized honey all mean the same thing.

Honey crystallizes naturally

Lovers of good raw honey may mistakenly believe that when honey crystallizes or goes solid, it has somehow gone off, but this is not the case and in fact is a sign of quite the opposite.

Most honeys will at some point become crystallized or set and this is a sign that the honey is genuine raw honey and that it has not been filtered or processed because crystallization is helped when honey contains minute particles of pollen, propolis and wax, which in effect act as an anchor for the crystals to form around, and these are contained in raw honey that has not been filtered or heat treated.

The source of nectar is all important

The reason why some honeys crystallize quickly and others do not, and also why different honeys vary in taste and flavour is all down to the type of flower that bees visit to gather nectar.

Nectar is source of sugars that make honey sweet and honey contains two main types of sugar ¬- fructose and glucose. It is the balance between these two types of sugars that this is key to whether honey crystallizes quickly or more slowly.

Glucose crystallizes

Honeys that have a higher level of glucose are the ones that crystallize more quickly because glucose is the sugar in honey that crystallizes. Honey is also made up with a small percentage of water and the crystallization takes place when glucose breaks away from the water.

There are other factors involved in this process, such as the temperature and other minerals, enzymes of the honey but the key reason is the level of glucose compared to fructose.

Ogilvy’s honeys

Ogilvy’s Honey has a great range of set and runny honeys that in both the British range and world honey range. Fans of set honey could try the New Zealand Rainforest honey or the Raw British Wildflower Honey.

Those who like their honey runny have no shortage of delicious options including Raw British Orchard Honey, Raw British Borage Honey or the Balkan Lime Honey.

The Honey Hunter Explains About Manuka Honey

New ZealandThe Honey Hunter has recently launched a new range of British honeys, but is also seeking to add to his iconic world honeys, and has started hunting for a suitable manuka honey that would complement the distinctive and delicious range of Ogilvy’s honeys for which the Honey Hunter is justifiably proud.

But what exactly is manuka honey?

With the search well under way, the Honey Hunter has taken a moment to explain some of the basics of manuka honey and why there is such interest in it.

Manuka honey is an unusual and decidedly distinctive honey that is likewise rather rare because it is only produced in New Zealand and parts of Australia (where it is also called jelly bush honey). Those incessantly industrious bees need to feed off the manuka tree, or the tea tree as it sometimes also called (Leptospermum scoparium to give it its Latin name) to produce manuka honey. The relative rarity of manuka honey is one reason why it also costs more than other varieties of honey.

Why is it special?

A scientist in New Zealand, Dr Peter Molan, discovered that manuka honey has an unusual antibacterial activity both in terms of its strength and the actual way it works, which was given the term non-peroxide activity (NPA). It is largely thanks to Dr Molan’s decades of research and work that the world has come to learn about manuka honey’s special antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

It was a research team in Germany, however, that discovered that manuka honey has a naturally occurring element called methylglyoxal (MG) and it is this MG that is responsible for the honey’s unique properties.

Increased demand & confused consumers

As the world has become more interested in honey and especially manuka honey, demand for it has soared. However, for consumers the task of identifying genuine manuka honey with bioactive properties has been made difficult by different brands, a number of different grading systems and their abbreviations, as well as the fact that not all manuka honey has antibacterial properties.

Two trademark schemes

There are two trademark schemes designed to give some assurance that the honey has been tested and meets certain standards and criteria. The UMF label stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is a trademark scheme run by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association and has numbers ranging from 5+ to 28+, which indicate the honey contains certain chemical markers and therefore the purity and quality of the honey.

The other trademark is MGO Manuka Honey, which is based on the level of methylglyoxal in the honey and has numbers ranging from 30+ to 550+.

However, there are producers of manuka honey who are not members of either trademark scheme and they have their honey tested and used the abbreviation NPA, meaning non-peroxide activity.

Changes to come

The New Zealand government recently issued a set of interim guidelines on labelling of manuka honey and it is likely that labels of all brands of manuka honey will change to indicate the level of methylglyoxal contained in the honey.

Good News for Bees – And Fans of Raw Honey

Bees Making Raw HoneyIt’s time for some good news about the honey bee – at least in the UK. Without them there would be no delicious raw honey to spread on your breakfast toast or to drizzle over a bowl of Greek yoghurt, not to mention the billions of pounds worth of crop pollination work they do every year.

Dramatic Rise in Registered Bee Colonies

The good news is that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of registered bee colonies in the UK rising from around 90,000 in 2008 to over 150,000 in 2015.

The colonies are registered on BeeBase, which is the website of the UK’s National Bee Unit. The unit has a variety of functions including protecting honeybees, inspecting bee health, advice, training as well as R&D.

Increasing public awareness of importance of bees

Alongside this increase in the number of registered bee colonies has been an increasing awareness of the importance of bees to the economy as a whole and in particular the work they do as pollinators.

In 2014, the Government launched a National Pollinator Strategy or Bee Action Plan, which is a 10 year strategy containing a variety of measure aimed at helping increase the habitat and food sources for bees and other pollinators.

Friends of the Earth have also launched the Bee Cause campaign to support the Bee Action Plan, and this includes a great Bee Saver Kit containing wildflower seeds, a bee guide, Bee ID and garden planner.

Demand for Raw Honey Increasing

Part of the reason for the increased awareness about honey bees is also thanks to increasing public appetite for raw honey and the rise of urban beekeeping, with the number of urban beekeepers tripling in London since 2008, according to two biologists at the University of Sussex.

Ogilvy’s Honey Launching New Range of Raw British Honeys

Ogilvy’s is responding to the demand for delicious British raw honey and during the course of 2015 will be unveiling the lid on its new range of raw British honeys, which will include heather honey and borage honey. So keep checking the website to see when these scrumptious new honeys become available.

New Zealand Honey – So Much More than Manuka Honey

New Zealand Rainforest HoneyIt is unlikely that anyone who has even a passing interest in honey has not heard about the miraculous benefits and properties of New Zealand’s most famous honey export: Manuka honey.

This is of course not surprising as it is a truly remarkable honey and so completely understandable that singing stars, celebrities and top level athletes as well as the general public are falling over themselves to get their hands on a jar of it.

However, for lovers of interesting raw honey it is worth noting that New Zealand is blessed with a multitude of unique and special varieties. Fortunately for you, the Honey Hunter has been able to track one or two of them down and Ogilvys’s range of superstar honeys includes two Great Taste award winning New Zealand honeys: Rewarewa and New Zealand Rainforest.

Why is honey from New Zealand special?

The very name New Zealand conjures up an image of an exotic land far, far away and it is in fact the country’s location at the end of the world that is reason for its rich variety of delicious honeys because this very isolation means many different types of plants have evolved that are unique to the country. So the bees that feed off these plants also produce types of honey that are only found in New Zealand – a perfect storm for the creation of some of the most amazing honey you will ever taste.

Rewarewa honey

While manuka honey hogs all the headlines, those who like a monofloral honey with an intensely delicious flavour will not be disappointed with Ogilvy’s Rewarewa honey. In fact, Rewarewa can be confused with manuka honey although it has a distinctly red tinge to it and its flavour is more like caramel-toffee than the sometimes earthy taste of herbs of manuka.

The Rewarewa tree is the Maori name for the tree, which is these days less commonly known as the New Zealand Honeysuckle tree. The tree produces an abundance of nectar and the resulting honey is widely known for its high level of antioxidants, which have been researched at the University of Waikato.

New Zealand Rainforest Honey

It is not just the abundance of flowers and trees in New Zealand that make the country special, but also the lack of pollution and untouched natural environment of many of its forest lands, especially in the South Island with its sparse population and remote location. Ogilvy’s New Zealand Rainforest honey is mild, buttery, aromatic honey that melts in your mouth and is sourced from the pristine wilderness of the South Island.

Honey and Middle Earth

New Zealand is also Middle Earth and so it should not be surprising to learn that honey cakes make a cameo in both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, although it is unclear if Ogilvy’s Rewarewa or New Zealand Rainforest Honey were the specific varieties used. One thing is for certain though – New Zealand honeys are out of this world. Give them a try and let your taste buds take you on an unforgettable journey.

Why can’t you give honey to under one year olds?

Everyone knows that children under one year of age should not be given honey, but not many people know why.

Although a delicious natural sweetner, honey carries a risk of botulism which can cause food poisoning which if not treated can result in death.  Botulinum spores are actually widely found throughout nature.  In fact, botulinum spores can appear in other sweeteners, such as maple syrup or corn syrup and can even be found in dust, indicating that it is an extremely widespread toxin.

As a result, most humans adapt to it and develop immunity.  Infants, however, do not have a completely matured digestive system and are susceptible to botulism food poisoning.  While honey does not always contain the spores, it is more likely to contain botulinum as it is a natural product and untreated.

You could give honey to an infant if it was pasteurised and there are one or two honey based cough remedies on the market that include pasteurised honey, but pasteurised honey is also crystallised as a result of the heat process making it unattractive to eat and as a result, it is hard to find.

Winter Warming Breakfast

Breakfast is always a rush in my house and with the cold weather descending, the cereal with cold milk combo seems, well, a bit chilly.  While porridge is good for half the week, with Zambezi Plains stirred through for a real zing, sometimes only toast will hit the spot and here’s a child friendly recipe I came across for a honey nut spread which has gone down a storm at my breakfast table – basically roast off ½ cup of pecans in a hot oven until just turning brown to get skins off (a bit of a fiddle but worth doing for the divine roasted nut flavour you get).  Then whizz in food processor with ½ cup butter and ½ cup honey (Ogilvy’s Organic Himalayan Highland Plains honey will give it extra umpf) and store in fridge for 1½  cups of nutritious deliciousness to spread on your breakfast toast that beats Nutella hands down in every way.

Sweet dreams for Coughing

It’s that time of year again and with more cold weather fronts coming here’s a sweet tasting recipe to soothe those night time sore throats and coughs.  Take a cup of Balkan linden honey, 3 tbsp of lemon juice and a quarter cup of warm water.  Mix all together in a sterile jar and take up to 2 teaspoons full prior to sleeping.

For those of you who like to feel it’s got to taste like it will do you good , many swear by an onion, garlic, oregano and honey mix – although anyone sitting next to you may not agree!   Equally, I give my children up to 2 teaspoons of honey (they like Balkan Linden) just before they go to sleep (and before they brush their teeth obviously!)

Spoonful of honey can keep coughs at bay

In 2007 an American hospital caused a sensation when it published a study that proved honey was more effective at relieving children’s night time cough symptoms than over the counter medicines.

It pitted honey against two of the most common ingredients in cold medicines Destromethorphan and Diphenlydramine – two common ingredients in UK cough remedies.  The  study coincided with the withdrawal of 6 cough syrups from the market together with the re-branding of a further NINETY over the counter cough remedies for children aged 6 and over after the discovery that these ingredients where a factor in five infant deaths since 1981.  In fact every year 1,500 children are admitted to hospital suffering adverse reactions to cough remedies.

The controlled study in America was based on 130 children aged between 2 and 18 years old who had been coughing for 7 days and had a running nose.  They were given either spoonful of honey, a placebo or the traditional cough syrup.  The children who were given honey coughed less and slept better and as an added bonus the parents enjoyed better sleep, knowing they had done something to help.

Since 2001 the World Health Organisation has recommended honey as a cheap, safe way to reduce cough and dry throat symptoms.  A safe demulcent, honey coats the throat and soothes irritated mucus membranes, stimulating saliva production and reducing coughing fits.  It seems granny really did know best when she reached for the honey jar!

Lost Hives

Really depressing news from Wiltshire. We’ve lost half of our hives. Sadly, it’s the same everywhere. There’s a beekeeper with 1,000 hives nearby, who put in 300 new nucleus hives (normally a queen and about 200 bees) and he has lost the lot. We all know it rained this summer but probably don’t realise that it was so heavy that it washed out the nectar from the trees and it takes 2-3 days for them to re-fill, by which time it was raining again. Granted we weren’t expecting much. But it’s heart wrenching when you come up to the hive and just see hundreds of wasps sailing in and out of silent hives. Your heart just sinks when you lift up the lid and see the empty frames, the tell-tale sign of wax moth, the rogue queen cells the workers desperately built to try and get a new queen to save the colony. I will admit I spent about 30 minutes squashing wasps that thought to try in on with the surviving hives – apologies to any wasp lovers out there. It goes without saying we won’t be harvesting any honey this year. We are very lucky not to be dependent on our harvest. So out of thirteen hives we lost six. Luckily we had two swarms at the beginning of the summer and we will be introducing them into their new homes over the next couple of weeks.

As the nights get chillier…

As the nights get chillier, it’s time to reach for honey to help keep the sniffles at bay. Lots of people are talking about pine tree honey for the immune system, and we in fact we are looking at one from Greece – but the taste can be a little acerbic. We recommend our Balkan Linden, glorious flavour and with antiseptic, sedative qualities – Europeans have used the Linden tree for centuries for colds and bronchitis’s – it doesn’t hurt ours got 3 stars Great Taste awards 2012! As a general immune aid, would also recommend Zambezi Plains – also 3 star 2011 – A rich spicy organic honey that is chock full of helpful enzymes, bioflavonoids etc and really packs a punch in the flavour department. For more delicate palates, Himalayan Highlands is one to consider – 2 star Great Taste award 2011 and organic. Otherwise there are some interesting immune system homeopathic sprays out there – I am trying the kids on one from Boots, the idea is it traps viruses before they multiply. Off to rustle up some soups, which I will post later.