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Raw Honey Spotlight: What Is Varietal Honey?

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One hundred percent raw, real varietal honey.

Sounds good, right? But what does it mean? The raw part is easy: raw honey has not been processed, heated or filtered. (You could just as well call it unadulterated, but that didn’t fit on our jar.)

In other words, raw honey comes straight from the hive. It can be strained to remove large particles and other non-honey elements, but the honey itself, including the pollen, remains.

Which brings us to varietal honey. You might see varietal and think wine, and you’d be on the right track. Winemakers make varietal wines with a single variety of grape, and honeybees make varietal honey predominantly with the nectar from a single variety of flower.

KEY FACT: Honey is a plant product.

(Side note: that honey is a plant product helps explain why raw honey is kosher even though honeybees are not.)

When our beekeepers label a harvest “Blueberry Honey,” they mean their bees collected nectar from the blossoms of a blueberry plant to make it. The same bees that made that Blueberry Honey, if moved to a field of flowering buckwheat, would produce Buckwheat Honey.

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As you can imagine, the characteristics of nectar vary widely among different floral sources, which affects the color, flavor, and aroma of the honey. Bees in the United States alone produce more than 300 honey varietals, from Meadowfoam to Tupelo to Star Thistle.

So the next time you eat varietal honey, imagine the floral source, the bees, and the miraculous product of their courtship.

More questions about honey? Go to the FAQs!

Topics: Insider, Raw Honey, Beekeepers