From Field and Flower

Frequently Asked Questions

A: Honey is made by honey bees (not all bees make honey), and starts as pollen and nectar that they gather from flowers. Bees use enzymes that break down the pollen and nectar into a sweet liquid that becomes honey. Honey also contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes from the flowers the bees have been visiting.

Honey has completely different flavours, colour and smell, dependent on the type of plants the nectar the bees collect comes from.

A: A honey’s colour is determined by the flowers and plants the bees have foraged pollen and nectar from. Some honeys are very light in colour, or almost transparent, this usually indicates a lighter, more delicate flavour. The darker the colour of honey, with a few exceptions, the stronger in overall flavour the honey is.

A: All honey when it’s first made by bees is in a liquid, or ‘runny’ form. When a honey goes opaque, with a thick granular, or grainy consistency it has crystallised or ‘set’. This is a completely natural process of the naturally occurring sugars in the honey solidifying over time.  Some nectar and pollen sources have more naturally occurring sugars, and thus will crystallise quicker.  Honey also crystallises faster in the cold. Some people prefer crystallised honey to runny, and vice versa. Crystallised honey is great spread on toast, in porridge, or dissolved into warm drinks.

A: Raw is synonymous with unpasteurised, or not over heated honey. It indicates that the honey has not been heated to high heats or to pasteurization point. Raw or unpasteurised honey retains its natural antiseptic, antibacterial properties, as well as the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. In essence, our honeys are extracted from the hive, and then lightly filtered before being bottled. Our beekeepers lightly filter the honey to remove hive debris, unprocessed pollens, and in some case bee body parts before it’s bottled.

A: We work with beekeepers from both the UK and around the world. We source our honeys from people who are passionate about their bees and who never over harvest honey from the hives. If there’s been a poor season and the bees need to keep all of their honey for winter, then we simply don’t get the honey. Our beekeepers are always small, independent producers, often family businesses for generations, and who never overheat or pasteurise the honey. The bees’ welfare and happiness are their priority, and that’s how we like it!

A: Keep at an ambient temperature, out of direct sunlight. A kitchen cupboard is fine. You don’t need to put honey in the fridge. You won’t harm the honey if you do, but it will crystallise/set much faster there.

A: Most of our honeys come from the wilderness or uncultivated land, so there are no pesticides. The use of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides are banned in the EU, along with genetically modified crops.

A: It doesn’t go bad if it’s stored correctly. Over time, honey can darken in colour/become opaque where it was once almost transparent, it can also change in texture from smooth and runny to thick and crystallised, but this does not mean the honey is ‘off’.

Honey doesn’t go off because its naturally high levels of sugar and low levels of moisture prevent bacteria from growing. Bees also add an enzyme called glucose oxidase to the honey. This creates hydrogen peroxide which further helps to preserve it and prevent spoilage.

A: We only work with small, independent beekeepers, who are committed to the welfare of their bees, and honey of the highest quality. They work in harmony with their bees – they don’t over harvest, and absolutely will not deprive bees of the honey they need to thrive. That means that some years, if the conditions haven’t been right for the bees to make enough extra honey for us, then we won’t get any at all. The bees will keep it as it’s a critical part of their survival over the winter months when there is no fresh pollen and nectar for them to collect.

We know each of our beekeepers and we’re delighted that many of them have been with us for years, and some for 10+ years.

A: Alas no, we don’t have space for any hives unfortunately – one day!

A: Our honey is raw or unpasteurised, that means it retains all its natural properties and flavour. It also comes from a single source and is never blended with other honeys. Raw or unpasteurised honey is the closest thing to eating honey straight from the hive, and as such the honey retains its natural antiseptic, antibacterial properties, as well as the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. In essence, our honeys are extracted from the hive, and then lightly filtered before being bottled. Our beekeepers lightly filter the honey to remove hive debris, unprocessed pollens, and in some case bee body parts before its bottled.

In contrast, honeys that are widely available in supermarkets are often a blend of lots of different honeys, often from different countries. These are then highly filtered and heated to a high temperature, which kills all the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and enzymes, removes the tiny specks of pollen and other elements which contribute to flavour and texture. The high temperatures turns the honey from a thick and sticky substance, that takes a long time to jar, into a thin watery liquid that can be bottled at speed and to industrial scale. Heating and filtering honey this way also make it stay clear for much longer, giving supermarkets a uniform product and a much cheaper process to make it. What you get is in essence an overcooked, and flat tasting honey with no natural nutrients left. A poor imitation of what real honey is!

A: Yes, but it is difficult to do, as bees have circa 5-7 miles flight distance on their hunt for pollen and nectar and can fly in any direction. In order for honey to be classed as ‘organic’, the bees need to be only visiting flowers that have not been treated with chemicals or pesticides, or only treated with organic products. A beekeeper needs to prove that all their bees have foraged organically and are a considerable distance from common pollution sources such as roads for example. Due to the size of the UK, the way our land is used, and our population density, it’s very hard to produce organic honey. This is why a lot of organic honey comes from abroad – places with far more large areas of untouched and uncultivated land.

Raw honey can be organic, but the label of ‘organic’ on a honey does not mean it is necessarily raw. Organic refers to the bees’ pollen and nectar sources, and raw refers to the closeness of the honey to its original state in the hive.  Organic honey can be easily heated to high temperatures and highly filtered just as any other honey and is likely to be so if from a supermarket.

A: Bee pollen is the pollen the bees collect from the flowers and then bring back to the hive. Our bee pollen is gathered only when the hives are full with honey. A beekeeper will put a small grate over the entrance to the hive, which knocks off the excess pollen on the bees’ bodies as they go through (they retain the pollen in their leg hampers, which will they’ll make into honey). The excess pollen falls into a box beneath the hive entrance, is collected and then gently dried. It has a dry texture which dissolves easily, and has a strong floral flavour, that’s gently sweet. Bee pollen is considered most useful for the immune system, stress and concentration, if taken daily.

Propolis is a mix of bees’ saliva, beeswax and the nectar from various trees and plants. It is a dark resinous substance, which the bees use for hive repairs, and to due to its antibacterial properties it is used to mummify, or seal away any contaminants in the hive, e.g. dead intruders like spiders/wasps etc. You can buy solid propolis which you can chew (but it can stain your teeth), or a liquid version (with water added). Propolis is considered ‘nature’s antibiotic’, and is used to boost the immune system, and can be used to treat infections such as abscesses on the gums.

Bee bread is a mix of bees’ saliva, nectar and pollen from flowers, which bees make and then store inside honeycomb cells in the hive. Packed with nutrients, bee bread is considered as beneficial for the immune system. It has a tangy, light floral, sweet flavour and can be dissolved on the tongue or chewed.

Royal Jelly is a milky substance produced by worker bees and fed to the young larvae bees in their early life, before stopping. Rich in nutrients, this substance is also fed to a bee that’s been selected by the other bees to be queen - the chosen queen is fed copious amounts of royal jelly for longer, from jelly that’s stored in specific cells of honeycomb. Royal jelly products usually need to be stored in the fridge. Royal jelly is prized for its anti-inflammatory properties and as such is often used in skin care.

A: Anything you like! You can eat it as it is from the jar for the purest, unadulterated flavours. Or, most commonly, people spread it on bread or toast, add to yogurt and porridge or stir it into teas and infusions. You can also use it to sweeten coffee, and as a sugar alternative in baking. There are many sweet and ‘savoury’ dishes that use honey as an ingredient.

The important thing with raw honey, is not to overheat it (above 66 degrees Celsius), or you kill all the active bacteria and properties in the honey. Leave boiling hot substances to cool down somewhat before adding your honey if you wish to retain its properties.

A: Honeycomb as a lightly chewy texture, with a sweet, sticky centre – a bit like a nougat. You can eat the entirety of the honeycomb – the outside of the comb is made of delicate beeswax, which contains the honey.  Use a spoon or a knife to cut a section of the comb and eat as it is, or add to toast, yogurt, ice-cream or serve with cheeses.

A: Yes, if you have hayfever caused by flower and tree pollen. It’s considered most effective to have ‘local’ honey, this is honey produced in a circa 7 mile radius from where you live or work. This is because the bees are likely to be collecting the pollens that are causing the hayfever. Once processed into a honey, it’s thought your body can process the pollens better, and reduce the reaction to the pollen in the atmosphere. The key thing is to start taking local honey as part of your daily diet, early in the ‘hayfever’ season, which often means keeping honey from the previous year’s harvest as hayfever often starts much earlier than local honey is ready for harvest. Bees only start to make honey in the Spring, and first harvests are usually not until Summer at the earliest, if the season has been good. A poor season for the bees may mean no honey harvest at all, or a small harvest in early Autumn. Having a stock of honey from the previous years, means you don’t have to wait for the new season’s honey to be ready.

Unfortunately, honey doesn’t work on grass pollen hayfever (which is very common) as bees don’t collect pollen from grasses.

A: You should always consult your doctor if you have diabetes, to check whether you can eat honey. That said, honey is made of natural sugars and has a considerably lower glycaemic index than white sugar, which makes it easier for body to process, although it will still raise blood sugar levels. Always check with a doctor first.