There’s more to honey than meets the eye – or the bee. The flavor depends on which flowers it is from.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
— A.A. Milne, “Winnie-the-Pooh”
Spring’s dandelions may wreak havoc on our yards, but they are manna to the bees. Dandelion honey, aka “love honey,” is a soft golden color, its sweetness sparked by a vegetal note reminiscent of those bright yellow flowers. Like all honey, it’s great slathered on toast and scones, whipped into butter, drizzled into yogurt or spooned straight from the jar. But its distinct flavor shines in salad dressings and sauces.
Honey isn’t just plain old honey anymore. Many producers offer seasonal variations that differ depending on the fields and flowers the bees pollinate.
The key to the flavor of single-source is its color: The darker the honey, the more robust it will be.
Dandelion honey, deep buttery in color with a creamy texture, is especially good in vinaigrettes for dark greens and glazes for meat.
Basswood honey is the palest, most complex of the sweet stuff, with a floral scent and notes of mint. Gathered from the basswood or linden trees, it’s considered one of the world’s finest honeys.
Clover, wild flower, summer blossom and alfalfa honeys are relatively mild, perfect for sweetening tea or coffee and drizzling over fruit.
Buckthorn honey is a pale nutty flavor with caramel notes. It’s great in recipes calling for nuts and spice cookies.
Buckwheat honey, dark as molasses, has deep bold raisin-y flavor. It’s great paired with blue cheese or drizzled over Greek yogurt. Substitute it for molasses in spice cake and gingerbread recipes.
Honey is the very first sweet known to man; cavemen drew hives on their dwelling walls. The Egyptians considered honey the “food of the gods” and included it in their sacrifices. It was fermented into beer and wine (mead) by the Romans, and used to heal cuts and burns by the ancient Greeks.
European doctors who prescribed honey tonics as antidepressants got it right. Honey sweetens life.
Honey is nearly 50 percent sweeter than sugar. When substituting it for sugar in a sauce or salad dressing, adjust the recipe and taste along the way. For a baking substitution, use about ¾ cup honey for sugar and reduce the liquids in a recipe by 2 tablespoons.
These recipes were all tested using dandelion honey, but they will work with any mild honey. If you choose to use dark honey, such as buckwheat or buckthorn, they will have a more pronounced flavor.
Beth Dooley is the author of “Minnesota’s Bounty” and “The Northern Heartland Kitchen.”