Why bees are their flowers: some honey knowledge – gastronomy

Whether white-yellow to dark golden, rapeseed, acacia or summer flower: honey comes in many varieties. But how do busy bees know what kinds of flowers to tap?

Small collectors with big returns: bees are on the move on flowers and trees all over the world. In Germany, for example, rapeseed, acacia and lime honey are among the known varieties. Marion Hoffmann from the honey test center of the German Beekeepers’ Association has had these and rarer varieties in the laboratory and knows how they arise.

Sunday: How many types of honey are there in Germany?

First of all, it must be said that honey can be differentiated in different ways, for example by the way it was obtained. There is centrifugal, but also pressed, drip or semi honey. Comb honey, on the other hand, is a specific type of supply. In addition, a distinction is made between flower honey and honey honey according to origin. The latter are again differentiated: there are general terms, such as summer flower or forest honey, where different plants are contained in different proportions. On the other hand, there are the specific types of honey, for example rapeseed honey for flower honey or spruce honey for honey honey. In Germany there are about twenty flower honeys, plus about a handful of honeydew.

Sunday: What is your personal favorite?

It’s not specific, but I prefer light honeys from the spring feed – the harvest of bees for honey production is called feed. It can be rapeseed honey or a spring flower honey, which contains maple as well as rapeseed and dandelion, which then gives the very light honey a slightly yellowish colour.

Sunday: What gives honey its special color and why are some solid and others liquid?

In general, flower honey tends to be lighter and honey honey tends to be darker, although there are exceptions. Different factors are involved in the color: on the one hand, the pigments from the nectar. The bees extract water from this, which enhances the color. Cornflower honey, for example, is extremely yellow. On the other hand, yellow-orange dyes are also released from the pollen. And it has to do with sugar composition. Crystallized glucose appears white due to light reflection. Because this sugar is predominant in rapeseed honey, it is so light, finally, there is also a coloring due to ongoing conversion processes, which is above all the case with honey honey. Whether honey is solid or liquid has to do with the ratio of the sugars glucose and fructose it contains. Roughly speaking: with more fructose it remains liquid, if there is more glucose it becomes solid, with a balanced ratio it becomes flexible.

Sunday: How do you even get honey honey and why is it usually more expensive?

The bees do not collect nectar from flowers, but rather sugary secretions from insects that suck on plants. Aphids or scale insects, for example, prick the needles of the fir tree and excrete the surplus, the so-called honeydew. These droplets are then ingested by the bees. The higher effort is definitely reflected in the price. Because large areas of forest are necessary, the beekeeper usually has to migrate to these areas with his bees. The respective journey costs time and fuel.

Sunday: How does it actually work that the bees only collect the desired variety?

Bees are flowers and sedentary. This means that if a bee has identified a good source, for example a canola field, it will fly there again and again. There are also so-called tracker bees. Once they have found a good source of costumes, they recruit their colleagues with a dance. Bees have a flight radius of two to four kilometers, which corresponds to an area of ​​at least twelve square kilometers. They go a long way when it’s worth it. So if, for example, there is a field of sunflowers or an avenue of linden trees within this radius, a row of honey may appear.

In order to be able to specify a certain botanical type of honey, the legislator requires that the honey must contain at least 60 percent of the corresponding nectar or honeydew. The beekeepers’ association checks this, for example, with a laboratory analysis.

Sunday: Sometimes the honey in the jar is crumbly and crystalline – where does it come from and how do you get rid of it?

If the honey is too coarsely crystallized, the beekeeper has usually not stirred it enough. This is not a lack of quality for the consumer, but a lack of enjoyment. A gentle heating is then recommended, which should not exceed 40 degrees. You can put the glass on the lukewarm heater for a while or warm it up in a water bath. However, you should check the temperature. Excessive heat damages the valuable enzymes in the honey. When the heated honey has a soft consistency, stir it well. Then the sugar crystals dissolve.

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