Why use local honey, you wonder? Shopping local has tremendous environmental benefits, no matter what you’re looking to buy. When it comes to honey, not only are you helping the planet (and community businesses), you’re helping yourself too. I recently took my kids to visit a local honey farm to learn about the benefits of local honey and why this sweet stuff is so amazing.
The Health Benefits
Local bees make local honey, which means the pollen they collect and bring back to the hive is all sourced from local plants. Since many seasonal allergies are caused by these same plants, eating honey that contains that pollen can possibly combat those allergies. While no formal studies have been conducted on the effects of local honey on allergies, the idea behind trace-exposure to allergens in order to desensitize patients to food allergies is one that’s gaining steam.
In addition to potentially fighting allergies, one of the great benefits of local honey is that it’s unprocessed and pure. The stuff you find in the grocery stores is often filtered, a process that removes the trace amounts of pollen it might contain. The purer the honey, the stronger its medicinal benefits, like potential anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
The Environmental Benefits
One of the more interesting things I learned on my visit to the local honey farm was how the local plant life factors into the honey-making process. The honey produced at the farm comes in different flavors, including the traditional wildflower, orange, and avocado. These flavors don’t come from additives, however. Instead, they are created based on the plants from which the bees draw pollen. Releasing the farm-raised bees into select local plant life not only creates some incredible honey flavors, but it also helps pollinate the plants, which is beneficial to all local wildlife.
Besides benefiting the plant life, supporting local honey helps the bee population as well. Since bees are now endangered, it’s more vital than ever to support local bee farmers who are helping raise and maintain healthy bees.
How To Reap the Rewards
Like many other things in life, honey is best in moderation—you don’t have to consume an entire jar in one sitting to enjoy the benefits. For allergies, just a spoonful of honey a day during allergy season can potentially make a difference. Despite how delicious it is all on its own, there are plenty of creative ways to incorporate a spoonful of honey into your regular diet, too. You can add honey to sauces and as a sugar substitute in baked goods, but if you really want to enjoy the health benefits of local honey, it’s best to keep it raw and unheated.
Some of my absolute favorite ways to use it include adding a tablespoon to fruit smoothies, which my kids adore, drizzling some on top of a sharp, dry cheese for a special snack or hors d’oeuvre, and as a topping for plain Greek yogurt to turn it into a healthy dessert. It also makes a great natural sweetener for lemonades or iced tea.
One of the best things about local honey is the natural variety. The avocado honey, for example, was much less sweet than the wildflower one, with an almost molasses-like flavor. It’s fun to experiment with the different types in recipes.
No matter how you choose to enjoy it, the benefits are clearly worth going local. Keep in mind that honey never goes bad, so even if you pay extra, it’s a worthwhile investment. Share your own uses for local honey with us on Twitter.
Image source: Sher Warkentin
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