Produce isn’t the only victim of wasteful cosmetic standards in the food industry. A few weeks ago we started carrying some packaged foods like “ugly” Baia Pasta and Re-Grained bars made from byproducts of brewing beer. There are so many easy ways to close the loop on food waste, which is why we always keep an eye out for local food companies to collaborate with. This week we’ve got a sweet surprise for our customers: delicious and healthy honey from our friends at the Bay Area Bee Company. Starting today, you can add this amazing local sweetener to your next box of Imperfect Foods. How can honey be “ugly,” you ask?
If honey becomes chunky in the jar, supermarkets will not buy it because of its appearance. Yet contrary to popular belief, this crystallization is not a sign of flawed honey. It is a sign of natural honey. Crystallization is a natural process that happens eventually to all honey, even the supermarket brands in the cute bear bottles. So what’s the big deal then? Understanding crystallization is actually a fascinating window into better understanding honey. Let’s start at the beginning.
What causes crystallization?
1. Cold Temperature
There are three factors that make honey crystallize more easily. The first is temperature. If the honey gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it will naturally crystallize. This means all it takes is some chilly weather or a cold shelf to turn that honey from smooth to chunky. This is a purely cosmetic issue and is also reversible. To make crystallized honey liquid again, gently heat the jar in warm water!
2. Sugar Ratios
The second factor is the blend of sugars in the honey. All honey is a blend of two natural sugar molecules: sucrose and glucose. Depending on what flowers the bees are feeding on, their honey will have a different ratio of sucrose to glucose. So certain honeys are more prone to crystallization based bees’ diet. For example, honey from alfalfa and clover flowers has more glucose and crystallizes quickly while honey from maple and blackberry flowers has less glucose and crystallizes more slowly.
3. Excess Pollen
The last thing that causes honey to crystallize is pollen. During their commute between flowers, bees pick up a whole lot of pollen. A lot of this pollen naturally ends up in the honey. More pollen in the honey encourages crystals to form. Many large honey producers filter out all of their pollen to prevent this from happening so their honey can look clear, bright, and uniform. Smaller honey producers often don’t choose to filter honey which makes it raw and natural but more likely to crystallize.
Far from a flaw, crystallization is actually a guarantee that your honey is fresh, natural, and local. If your honey never crystallizes, you should be a little suspicious. Heavily processed honey is designed to stay clear over long distances and long periods of time. Moreover, honey that stays liquid indefinitely may have been diluted or blended with other honeys. There is no way to know what flowers or even what country it came from! By buying crystallized honey, you are supporting small honey producers right here in the Bay Area.
As far as what to do with your Imperfect honey, it is great for spreading across bread or toast, putting in your oatmeal, or even using as a glaze for meat or vegetables. We have a limited quantity of honey available so customize your box early if you would like some! If you miss out this week, don’t worry! We will have Bay Area Bee Co. honey every other week. Help us find a home for this awesome local product and show your support for wholesome, natural food!