A lot of folks ask me what kind of honey we sell. “Is it clover?” “Do you have any orange blossom?” Before now, the answers to those questions was most accurately summed up “I dunno”. Really?? How can any self respecting beekeeper who claims to know their craft, not know what they are producing?
Bees are a funny business. NCDA classifies them as livestock. But they do not herd well nor do they stay inside fences. They aren’t really wildlife – we keep them in human made homes and move those homes around at will. So they are in between. Wild stock maybe? The point is that fortunately I don’t control where our bees go. They pick the flowers to work. And they have good taste. I know, I taste their product daily.
So I am not the one producing it, the bees are. But sadly there are a few unsavory beekeepers who discovered that they could sell honey at higher prices by claiming it was a rare varietal honey. (NC is long rumored to sell more Sourwood honey than we have trees to produce it). How could a customer argue otherwise?
The only real way to know what kind of honey you are buying (or selling) is to have the pollen analyzed. To be classified as a true varietal honey, it must exceed 50% of the flower source. The national expert is at Texas A&M University. Dr. Vaughn Bryant is a legend in beekeeping community for his expertise in palynology, the study of pollen grains. (I have no idea how to pronounce that). His lab employs hyper techy microscopes and databases to identify & count individual pollen grains in honey. And it ain’t free.
But inquiring minds want to know. What kind of honey is this? And I wanted truth. Part of the Buck Naked name is about honesty. So my bee nerd meter went off the charts today when I received the results of our honey analysis. I sent in 2 samples: one I call our “Wildflower” blend and one I call our “Sourwood”. Here are the lab results…
Sample 1: Wildflower Sample 2: Sourwood
Eureka! Truth in advertising! For those (like me) who crave detail, here’s a breakdown of what you are eating in Buck Naked honey:
Buck Naked Wildflower: holly, clover, gallberry, virginia creeper, oak, black gum, plantain, rose, mustard, citrus, grape, buttercup, blackberry, maple, sunflower, sweet gum, magnolia, wax myrtle, willow, chestnut, and 3% unknown (?!)
Buck Naked Sourwood: sourwood, virginia creeper, plantain, sumac, rose, clover, willow, crepe myrtle, sunflower, grape, and corn.
The Wildflower is a true mix of floral sources. No one dominant plant source. So it is most accurate to call it Wildflower. It’s what blooms in the NC Piedmont in spring. The Sourwood is a lovely 88% Sourwood. Minute amounts of other stuff, but clearly a true varietal honey. Hallelujah.
Bear in mind that this mixture changes from year to year based on what blooms well and what the bees are in the mood for. But it is super cool to now be able to accurately answer the question, “What kind of honey is this?” I’m already looking forward to having this year’s harvest analyzed since we have settled into different bee yards since last year (Buck Naked Farm & Ninja Cow Farm). This year’s crazy weather may net some different results.
In the end, who cares? How different can honeys be? Well, it is kind of like wine. Differences are subtle but noticeable to those who stop to taste. And different honeys are good for different things. Great for tasting with cheeses or as glazes or drizzles for different effects. But everyone’s tastes are different and whatever you like is right. (Unlike wine pairing). In the future, we will endeavor to provide some recipe ideas to highlight different honey uses.
Fingers crossed, we will be harvesting wildflower honey in June. In the meantime, I am delighted to be able to say with confidence, we have true NC sourwood honey for sale. The proof is in the pudding – or whatever you make with honey!