According to the National Honey Board, September is National Honey month. Who knew? I’ve only recently discovered the many joys and variations of this liquid gold at the farmers market where “the honey guy” as I call him, patiently drips out samples of different honeys onto tiny spoons and explains the nuances of each flower’s sweet nectar. Buckwheat, clover, cranberry blossom, wildflower and apple are just a few of the honeys collected from hives around the area.
Buckwheat is my personal favorite, dark and intense with just a hint of molasses-like flavor. I like it on my oatmeal and I’ve even started having a spoonful before bed with a glass of water because I’ve read that it improves sleep and aids the liver and metabolism overnight.
This week I also bought bee pollen from “the honey guy” (Patz Maple and Honey Farms). Collected from the bottom of the hives where some of the pollen drops from the bees as they enter, the pollen is dried and preserved. It comes in jars of various golden colored granules, the different colors coming from different flowers. Touted as a super food, bee pollen is nutrient dense and contains numerous amino acids, active enzymes, vitamins minerals trace element and even protein. I am supposed to sprinkle a teaspoon into my cereal or yogurt every morning (or just eat it – it actually doesn’t taste too bad) and let him know next week if my energy level has improved. Apparently some people have had to cut back because their energy level went so high after they began eating bee pollen that they had trouble sleeping! OK, experiment is on...
Now back to the sweet stuff.
Honey has long been known as a natural energy booster, and unlike sugar has a healthy glycemic index and also contains vitamins and minerals. It is also great for the immune system and is a natural remedy for many ailments. Its anti-microbial properties make it a superior treatment for cuts and burns, relieving pain and helping wounds heal quickly. Next time you cut yourself, try putting a little honey on the wound and see how quickly it heals.
And because honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture, it is used in many beauty products as well. Try making your own facial mask by mixing a little yogurt with some honey and smoothing it over your skin. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse with cool water. Your face will feel dewy soft.
A great remedy for coughs, honey has been found to be more effective and safer than many over-the-counter medicines. Simply squeeze half a lemon into a cup of warm water and stir in a spoonful of honey for soothing relief. Apparently many professional singers use honey to soothe their throats before a performance. I also read that honey is good for hangovers – just blend honey, orange juice and yogurt to recover quicker!
Another cool thing about honey is that it never goes bad. Due to its antimicrobial properties, bacteria cannot grow in honey. Archeologists allegedly found jars of honey that were over 2000 years old and the honey still tasted delicious! If it does get “crusty” and crystallized, simply place it in a bowl of very warm water and it will liquefy again.
Next week my family with be following a Jewish tradition and dipping apples into honey to ensure a sweet year. Honey cake is also often served on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
There are plenty of other ways to use this gift from the bees. Honey butter, honey mustard dressing, grilled peaches drizzled with a little honey…..I recently combined honey with orange juice and came up with this sweet chicken recipe. InJoy!
Honey, Rosemary and Orange Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use bone-in with skin if you prefer)
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place in a large plastic bag. Mix the orange juice, honey, olive oil, rosemary, pepper and shallot together and pour over the chicken. Squish it all together in the bag and marinade for 30 minutes up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 400 and place chicken in a baking dish, pouring marinade over it. Bake for twenty minutes, turning chicken once and basting with the juices. Turn the oven up to broil at 500 degrees for 5 minutes more just to brown chicken. Serve with white or brown rice and pour the delicious honey, orange sauce over the rice.