How do we recognize Good And Quality Honey?

How do we go about choosing a good, quality honey? Surely it is essential to know what kind of product we are going to buy and also to know how to read the label well. But how to recognize it and choose genuine honey?
How do we recognize Good And Quality Honey?

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What is honey?

Nothing is left to chance; there is an actual EC directive (2001/110/EC), later implemented by Legislative Decree No. 179 of May 21, 2004, that explains it to us. Basically, it tells us that honey is a sweet, natural substance produced by honey bees (Apis mellifera) from the nectar of plants or secretions of plants or secretions of insects that feed on living parts of plants. What is collected by the bees is processed by them, stored and left to mature in the honeycombs of the hive. The legal language is always a bit difficult to understand, but here it gives us important information about both the centrality of the bee's role in honey production and the origin of honey.

Honey's origin

Origin allows us to understand from where bees collect the "raw materials" to process honey and allows an initial classification of this food. Indeed, we can distinguish between flower or nectar honey and the honeydew honey. If it is easy to understand the origin of the former, a little more complex is the case of honeydew honey. The directive here helps us and tells us that this category includes honey that bees produce from the collection of what is not nectar, that is, sugary substances emitted from living parts of plants or produced by small insects (such as aphids) that feed on plant sap.

Monofloral or multifloral honey?

Other valuable information we can gather about honey concerns its botanical origin, that is, from which plants the bees gather what they need to produce it. We can therefore have monofloral honeys and multifloral honeys. In the monofloral one, we recognize that the nectar of a certain plant, as well as its pollen, is sufficiently present to define its characteristics. In this case, we can speak of acacia honey, chestnut honey, linden honey, etc. Wildflower honey, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. To produce it, bees have collected from different blooms, and so there is a great variety in terms of flavor, color, texture...

The composition

The law then also tells us what the composition of honey must be, and it is very specific. Without going into too much detail, we find indications of how many sugars must be present, the content of water and water-insoluble substances, electrical conductivity, free acidity and diastase index, and hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) content. These two indices are very important because they are the subject of specific analyses that investigate the freshness and state of preservation of honey. Next, remember that it is absolutely forbidden to add anything other than honey to honey designated as such, thus other products, food ingredients and additives.

The label's importance

But where can we find all this information about honey? Simple: on the label! Obviously, there are data that one is obliged to put on the label, while others are optional, but they also often find space there to enhance the value of the product more. The information that must necessarily be on the label is large, but we can see the ones that we are most interested in in order to understand if our honey is good and of high quality. Always pay attention to labels, they contain precious information!

Honey denomination

Let's start with the food denomination. In this case, the term "honey" is sufficient. In case it is filtered, in honeycomb, with pieces of honeycomb, or intended for industrial use, this must be mandatory to be indicated. However, we are also used to read on the label the botanical origin of the honey: acacia honey, chestnut honey, linden honey, dandelion honey... This information obviously helps the consumer because different botanical origin corresponds to different characteristics, but it is also a way for the producer to give more value to his honey. This denomination is given by the beekeeper himself based on his knowledge of the product and sensory and melissopalinological analyses, which allow him to identify which pollens are present in the honey and thus indicate the prevalent one.

Source

One of the most important pieces of information to look for on the label, however, is definitely that related to the source. This really allows us to begin to distinguish what may be a quality honey versus a poorer honey. First of all, if what we find in the jar is a mixture of honeys from several countries, it is mandatory to indicate whether these are EU or non-EU countries. In Italy, however, we are lucky because our law also requires us to specifically indicate the country of origin. Thus we can find the labels "Italian honey," "country of origin: China," "countries of origin: Italy and China," etc. Needless to say, the advice everyone gives is to choose only Italian honey in order to have a good, quality product. In some cases, the consumer is even more advantaged because it is also possible to include on the label indications about the specific geographical origin of the honey (e.g., honey from the Romagna Apennines).

The expiration date

Also important is the question of the expiration date. It must necessarily be indicated on the label. Honey is a food that can be stored for a long time, certainly more than 18 months. Therefore, for this kind of product, it is also possible to indicate only the year within which to consume the product, omitting the day and month. For some types, 18 months is chosen as the deadline, but the period can also be extended to two and a half years. In reality, honey can be stored even longer, one just has to pay attention to the method of storage.

How to store it

First, it is recommended to choose a product contained in glass jars, as this is the most suitable material for food preservation. Once opened, it is always necessary to close it carefully, as otherwise it may attract moisture, degrade faster or ferment. It is always recommended to store honey in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. It is not necessary to store it in a refrigerator. Ministry of Health guidelines state 20°C as the ideal storage temperature. In any case, it is important not to encounter various alterations to the flavor and texture. This kind of degradation is by no means to be confused with crystallization, which, on the other hand, is an entirely natural process typical of honey and which testifies that it has not been subjected to processing such as pasteurization and heating at high temperatures.

Choose Italian honey and adopt a 3bee hive!

Knowing the product well and being able to read the label correctly therefore allows us to be able to choose between a good, quality honey and a poorer one. The advice that is generally given to consumers is to always choose local products in order to have more confidence about their value and to enjoy a food that is deeply linked to its territory. By adopting a 3Bee hive, you will not only be able to make a contribution to Italian beekeeping realities, often strangled by competition from cheaper but lower quality foreign honey, and help them in their daily work of caring for and breeding bees, but you will also be able to choose 100% Italian and quality honey. From your smartphone you will be able to monitor your adopted hive day by day, follow its growth and production. At the end of the beekeeping season, you will then receive your honey directly at home! You also choose which beekeeper to support!

By Elena 3BeeJune 9th, 2022Share

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