The color, flavor, and even aroma of a particular variety of honey may differ depending on the nectar source of flowers visited by the honey bee. The colors may range from nearly colorless to dark brown, the flavor may vary from delectably mild to distinctively bold, and even the odor of the honey may be mildly reminiscent of the flower.
Varietal honeys may be best compared to varietal wine in terms of annual climatic changes. Even the same flower blooming in the same location may produce slightly different nectar from year-to-year depending upon temperature and rainfall.
There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different floral source. Listed below are some of the more common. As a general rule, the flavor of lighter colored honeys is milder, and the flavor of darker colored honeys is stronger.
Also known as "multifloral" or "mixed floral" honey, Wildflower is often used to describe honey varieties from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources. Its colour can vary from very light to dark and flavor range from light and fruity to tangy and rich, depending on the mix from the different seasonal wildflowers.
Alfalfa is a legume with blue flowers. It blooms throughout the summer and is ranked as the most important honey plant in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and most of the western states. Alfalfa honey is white or extra light amber in color with a fine flavor. The honey makes a perfect table honey for everyday use.
Scientific Name: Medicago sativa
Avocado honey is gathered from California avocado blossoms. Avocado honey is dark in color, with a rich, buttery taste. It is wonderful in dressings and sauces.
Scientific Name: Persea americana
This tree is distributed from Southern Canada, to Alabama, to Texas, and is the product of blossoms from the Basswood tree. Basswood honey is often characterized by its distinctive biting flavor. The honey is water-white with a strong flavor that works well in many recipes.
Scientific Name: Tilia americana
Taken from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush, the nectar makes a honey which is typically light amber or amber in color and with a full, well-rounded flavor. Blueberry honey is produced in New England and in Michigan. Many people believe that Blueberry honey is honey to which Blueberry flavor is added; this is not so. Pure Blueberry honey is the result of bees gathering nectar from the Blueberry bush. It has wonderful applications in sauces and baked goods.
Scientific Name: Vaccinium spp.
Buckwheat plants grow best in cool, moist climates. The buckwheat plant prefers light and well-drained soils, although it can thrive in highly acid, low fertility soils as well. Buckwheat is usually planted in the spring or is found growing wild. It blooms quite early and it yields a dark brown honey of strong, distinct flavor. Buckwheat has excellent application for BBQ sauces and baked goods.
Scientific Name: Fagopyrum esculentum
Clover honey is what most people think of as being typical honey flavor and color. It is widely used “on the table.” Despite being the most common nectar producing honey plant, Clover honey is still a variety. White clover, alsike clover, and the white and yellow sweet clover plants are the most important for honey production. Depending on location and source, Clover honey varies in color from water-white to extra light amber and has a mild, delicate flavor. (There are a few different varieties of Clover - look on Honey Locator for White Dutch Clover, Sweet Clover, White Sweet Clover and Red Clover).
Scientific Name: Trifolium repens
Eucalyptus is one of the larger plant genera with over 500 distinct species and many hybrids. Eucalyptus honey varies greatly in color and flavor, but in general, it tends to be a bold-flavored honey with a slightly medicinal aftertaste. It may be used in baked goods, sauces, dressings.
Scientific Name: Eucalyptus spp
Fireweed honey is very light, or “water white” in color and comes from a perennial herb that affords wonderful bee pasture in the Northern and Pacific states and Canada. Fireweed grows in the open woods, reaching a height of three to five feet and spikes attractive pinkish flowers. It is delightfully sweet, and wonderful in dessert applications.
Scientific Name: Epilobium angustibolium
Orange Blossom honey may be a single variety, but often it is a combination of citrus floral sources from Oranges and nearby Grapefruit or even Lime and Lemon trees. Orange is a leading honey source in southern Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. Orange trees bloom in March and April and produce a white to extra light amber honey with a distinctive flavor and the aroma of orange blossoms. It is savored the world over on the table for everyday use, or in cakes and cookies.
Scientific Name: Epilobium angustibolium
Sage honey can come from many different species of the sage plant. Sage shrubs usually grow along the California coast and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sage honey has a mild, delicate flavor. It is generally white or water-white in color. It is quite sweet in flavor, and pairs extremely well with strong cheeses. When shopping for Sage honey, note that there are several varieties of Sage - check out the Honey Locator website for Black Button Sage (shown), White Sage, Purple Sage and Mixed Sage.
Scientific Name: Salvia mellifera
Despite its name, the Sourwood tree, found in the Appalachian Mountains from Southern Pennsylvania to Northern Georgia, has a sweet, spicy, anise aroma and flavor. The honey has been highly valued for table use or in a myriad of cooking applications such as glazes. It is said to have a wonderful lingering aftertaste.
Scientific Name: Oxydendrum arboreum
The tulip poplar is a magnificent, breathtaking, tall tree with large greenish-yellow flowers that are unforgettable when viewed. It generally blooms in the month of May. Tulip Poplar honey is produced from southern New England to southern Michigan and south to the Gulf states east of the Mississippi. The honey is dark amber in color, however, its flavor is not as strong as one would expect from a dark honey. It has many applications in baking and cooking.
Scientific Name: Liriodendron tulipifera
Tupelo honey is produced in the southeastern United States. Tupelo trees have clusters of greenish flowers, which later develop into soft, berrylike fruits. In southern Georgia and northwestern Florida, tupelo is a leading honey plant, producing tons of white or extra light amber honey in April and May. The honey has a mild, pleasant flavor and will not granulate. The Tupelo tree has been designated as being on the “Ark of Taste,” those plants and animals that are endangered and that must be protected.
Scientific Name: Nyssa ogeche
Dark Honey Has More Illness-Fighting Agents
Date: July 8, 1998
Source:University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Honey bees pollinate the crops we eat and provide honey. Where they forage for nectar now has gained nutritional importance: What they eat determines the level of antioxidants in honey, according to new research.
There are several hundred different types of honey, each as unique in flavor and color as the flowers from which the honey bees gathered the nectar. Bees feed on nectar from flowers and then take it back to the hive, where honey is produced. Honey can be almost clear in color to almost black. Dark honeys tend to have a stronger flavor and a more pungent aroma, and they contain more beneficial antioxidant compounds than light-colored honey.
- Avocado honey is largely produced from the avocado blossoms in California. This honey variety also comes from southern Mexico and is widely produced throughout Central America, Australia and other tropical regions where avocados are grown. Avocado honey is very dark and has a strong buttery flavor. You can try it as a spread on bread or as an ingredient in salad dressings and sauces.
- Buckwheat honey is so dark that it looks almost black in the jar, but when it's held up to the light, it varies in color from copper to purple. This type of honey is somewhat difficult to find, but it is produced in New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and eastern Canada. Buckwheat honey has a bold, earthy smell and a flavor that is often compared to molasses. Its dark color means that this honey is packed with antioxidants and iron, making it a healthy substitute for sugar. It is the ideal complement for buckwheat pancakes and can also be used to produce mead.
- Macadamia honey is made from the nectar of the macadamia nut tree. Macadamia trees were once almost exclusive to Australia, and so was the sweet honey byproduct. Hawaii is now a leading producer of macadamia nuts, and thus is also a major supplier of macadamia honey. The dark honey has a complex aroma and a mild, nutty flavor. It is rich in antioxidants and is the perfect complement to foods that might be eaten with macadamia nuts. Try it as a topping for salads and ice cream, mix it in your tea, use it as a glaze for grilled meats or use it as a substitute for sugar in cookie and cake recipes.
Pumpkin Blossom Honey
- Pumpkin blossom honey is a dark amber color with a subtle floral aroma. It is a rare honey variety because it can only be produced during the short blossoming period of pumpkin plants. It is made anywhere that pumpkins are grown. This is a versatile variety that pairs well with sweet and savory dishes. Use it in your favorite sweet bread recipes, or simply add some to a slice of hearty grain bread. It is ideal for use in marinades and grilling sauces, and can even be blended with yogurt and ice cream.