Do you ever come back from your trips with a jar of honey and spread honeycomb on your bread for breakfast? The Norwegian flower honey you got as a gift, eucalyptus honey from Australia, lavender honey from France, chestnut honey from the Black Sea and flower honey from Hawaii…
Honey made from trees such as pine and oak is different from flower honey. It contains less glucose and fructose and isn’t overly sweet. Tree honey has more enzymes, amino acids and minerals than flower honey does. It is rich in potassium, calcium and antioxidants. However, flower honey contains more pollen.
The most interesting thing about tree honey is how bees produce it. Bees don’t make this honey by collecting nectar from flowers, they make it from a kind of resin found on tree trunks. Where does this resin come from? If you don’t know, hold on to your hats. What follows is astonishing. The pine honey that you have been eating for years is actually made from secretions of insects that live on the tree. These insects feed on the sap of the tree and secrete the remainder as a sweet substance. If you see a substance that looks like white cotton on pine trees in the summer, this is the secretion from the insects. Bees love this sweet substance. This is why they make honey from the trees in the late summer when they can’t find many flowers.
Pine honey is most prevalent in the Aegean region, especially the Muğla area of Turkey. The pine honey produced by honey bees working in cooperation with the marchalina hellenica insects that live on the red pine in this area is one of the most unique types of honey in the world. Other countries have oak honey which is referred to as “forest honey” in Lebanon, Spain, Portugal and even Germany.
Tree honey is actually a delicious example of recycling, where bees reuse what insects have thrown away. The result is amazing honey. Now, the real question is, are we making the best use of this product?
Honey does not spoil easily (if it is natural, it is perfectly normal for it to crystallise) but tree honey can last a long time without losing its texture or crystallising. Here are a few tips for making it last longer:
- Store it in an air-tight container.
- Don’t put it in the fridge. Put it in a kitchen cupboard out of direct sunlight. Don’t keep it near the oven or hob and protect it from excessive heat.
- Don’t mix the honey with water. If you’re adding honey to tea, be careful not to put the wet spoon back into the honey jar. Dirty spoons with food on them can cause bacteria to grow.
- If you’re like me and collect honey on every trip, and you don’t plan on eating it for a long time, you can put it in the deep freeze. However, make sure that there is some space left at the top of the container because honey can expand.
- If your honey crystallises, put the jar in a bowl of hot water. The crystals will disappear fairly quickly.
When it comes to uses in the kitchen, there is nothing quite as delicious as honey on lightly-toasted homemade bread. It also pairs nicely with cheese. Tree honey is not as sweet as flower honey so it also wonderful with desserts such as ice cream or fruit salad.
Cemre Narin is a freelance food writer and cook based in Istanbul, and has been the culinary and restaurant editor of Vogue Turkey since 2010. A former clinical psychologist, lived and worked in the US and Jordan. Co-writer of the cookbook: Icindekiler (Ingredients), Academy Chair at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, co-creator of the international food conference YEDI (Seven).