Variety and properties of honey

by Redazione Fine Taste

In this article we want to provide an overview of nine different types of honey and indicate the relative characteristics for each one.

Before starting, let's explain better what is meant, in general, by honey.

What is honey?

Honey is a sugary substance of viscous consistency produced by bees. Bees feed on nectar directly from flowers (in this specific case we are talking about nectar honey) or on secretions produced by other insects (honeydew honey). Honey is therefore a food generated by bees who, after having drawn nectar from flowers, add their own enzymes and leave it to mature inside the hive.

The honey has an amber yellow colour, more or less intense depending on the type of honey. Subjected to refining, it is used as a natural food and as a sweetener.

Honey is an ancient food. It has been used in food for at least 6000 years, mainly as a sweet source for much of the world's population. Just think that the first written reference to honey is found on the inscriptions of a Sumerian tablet dating back to 2100-2000 BC!

Honey can be unifloral (from a single type of flower) or multifloral (multiple species of flowers). One pound of honey has approximately 304 kcal., almost exclusively coming from carbohydrates.

Let us now list nine varieties of honey and for each we give specific characteristics and suggestions for use.

1. Acacia honey

Acacia honey is a monofloral honey and is the most widespread and appreciated honey in Italy.

Acacia honey is a pale, liquid, almost glass-like honey. It is obtained from bees that feed on acacia flowers. Acacia honey tends not to crystallize because it is rich in fructose and has a very pleasant taste that can satisfy all palates.

2. Wildflower honey

As you can easily imagine, it is a multifloral honey, produced from different floral types (mainly acacia, lime and chestnut).

Based on the period of the year in which it is produced we can identify two macro categories:

  • Light wildflower honey : it is produced from early spring until June/July, it has a light and transparent color and a more delicate and sweet flavor than the other variants, but less intense. After a few months from harvest the product tends to crystallize.
  • Dark wildflower honey : produced at the end of summer, it has a dark or amber color. The taste is stronger than the previous variant with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is very reminiscent of chestnut honey. The consistency is creamy and its crystallization is slower.

3. Chestnut honey

Chestnut honey is produced from the nectar of the plant of the same name, which is very widespread throughout our Apennines. It is among the honeys with a dark, very intense brown color.

Don't be fooled by the dark color of honey: the darker the honey, the more considerable its antioxidant action is!

The scent of chestnut honey is more incisive than that of other honeys, slightly acrid and pungent. The taste also reflects these peculiarities: bitter and strong. Sweetness, therefore, is not really its distinctive feature: for this reason it may not be indicated as a sweetener but is instead excellent for accompanying cheeses! Also in this case, given the greater presence of fructose compared to glucose, it is difficult to crystallize.

4. Rapeseed honey

Rapeseed is a plant whose flowers are a very intense yellow. It is very early because it flowers from April to June. The flowers are particularly rich in nectar and pollen and this allows you to obtain a large quantity of honey.

Rapeseed honey is a very sweet honey with a light color with shades ranging from yellow, beige and white. Precisely because of its sweetness it is among the types of honey preferred by children!

It is also slightly creamy and tends to crystallize faster than almost all other types of honey, becoming solid and hard. In this case, don't worry, just mix the honey vigorously to give it a creamy consistency.

5. Linden honey

Linden honey is among the most delicate on the market and has a light golden color. Its flavor is sweet and with an aroma reminiscent of lime flowers. Its sweetness and fluidity make it very suitable for use as a substitute for traditional sugar in various types of drinks.

Its scent is less intense than other types of honey, but its delicate flavor and aroma make it particularly sophisticated.

6. Stachys honey

Stachys is a medicinal herb that grows on wheat stubble (residue from the stalks) after threshing.

The honey obtained from this herb is extremely elegant and very rare, because the process to obtain it is complex. It has a very creamy, almost buttery consistency as a result of crystallization which is almost absent. It has a milky white color, a sweet but not too sweet taste, with notes that recall almonds and hay.

A curiosity: it is one of the honeys that best lends itself to caramelizing red meat in the kitchen!

7. Dandelion Honey

Dandelion is a herbaceous plant that grows spontaneously in flat and mountainous areas. Dandelion honey has an intense yellow color and a pungent, intense, persistent scent, reminiscent of ammonia. The flavour, however, is delicate and balsamic, with an aftertaste of chamomile.

8. Sunflower Honey

Sunflower honey has a beautiful bright yellow color. On the palate it is aromatic but also fresh. Its aroma is delicate and reminiscent of wax. It is not very sweet and, as with chestnut honey, it is particularly suitable in combination with cheeses.

9. Honeydew Honey

As we have already seen, honeydew honey is a honey that instead of being produced with the nectar of flowers, is obtained from the secretion of other insects, i.e. a substance found on the leaves or bark of trees, namely honeydew.

It is one of the rarest and healthiest honeys on the market. Compared to traditional nectar honey, honeydew honey is less sweet, the flavor is reminiscent of caramel, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The color is very dark, almost black, while the consistency is compact like that of nectar honey, but does not tend to crystallize.

If you are interested in trying any of the honeys we talked about, you can find them here