Marty Rosen, a long-time beekeeper in New York State, says consumers should look for honey that is totally raw and lightly filtered to remove large chunks of wax and bee detritus, leaving in the tiny bits of pollen to give you “wonderful taste and incredibly complex flavor.”
Commercial producers subject honey to a process called ultrafiltration. This high-temperature, high-pressure process removes the pollen, making the origin of the honey untraceable. There have also been allegations that honey from China and other places is tainted with antibiotics and toxic substances. For these reasons, Rosen and Forler strongly suggest buying honey directly from the beekeeper or at farmer’s markets where you can ask how the bees are maintained and how the honey is handled. There are also many excellent bee farms that sell honey online. Some retail stores carry local varieties of honey as well. Saul Cohen, a produce buyer for Whole Foods in Stamford, Conn., says he gets his honey from local vendors.
Some commercial honey may carry the USDA seal, but there are few federal standards regulating it. Buyers are therefore not protected from sellers falsely sourcing honey or mixing it with substances such as high fructose corn syrup. However, if the honey is produced in Florida, you have a better chance of it being authentic, as that state has incorporated legislation to protect the consumer against false labeling, including the country of origin.
Honey that has not been opened can be kept in a dark cool place, but once opened, Forler advises putting it in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve the moisture level, as honey has a tendency to dry out over time. To liquefy, warm gently over low heat. (Anything over 95 degrees Fahrenheit will kill off the beneficial enzymes.)
The price of honey can range from a couple of dollars per pound for a generic brand found at Costco, to more than $100 a pound for New Zealand’s famed manuka honey.
So, if you want to buy some honey for your honey or for your honeymoon, now you know what to look for. Don’t forget to bring along a spoon! To Your Health!