Saturday, October 1, 2016

Honey In Medicine

Did you know honey is used as a medicine?  

In ancient science and medicine, honey was appreciated for its unique healing properties. Some of the earliest known medical writings, including the Ebers Papyrus, include honey as an important ingredient in many remedies. Today, honey is used to heal burns and wounds, treat allergies, fight infection and soothe sore throats. 

Honey can be used to heal wounds, cuts, scrapes, burns and for other medicinal purposes. Honey is antibacterial which means it kills germs; honey is also known as a humectant. This means it will hold in moisture. Since it is antibacterial, it keeps the wound clean and its moisture helps the wound to heal well. Wounds sometimes can show no signs of healing after long periods of time. It has been found that when wounds like this are treated with honey, the healing process and cell regeneration begins. Honey does this by promoting the formation of granulation tissue and by stimulates cell growth and the growth of epithelium (a type of tissue) over wounds. These two necessary tissues basically form the new skin of the wound when it begins to heal or is healed. Honey will prevent infections, help the cut heal faster, and prevent scaring by forming tissue. 

Honey is also excellent if you have a sore throat or cough. Eating honey or adding it to hot tea can help coat and soothe your throat. Also, eating 1-2 tablespoons of honey a day can help to boost your immune system!

Honey in general is very healthy! The next time you head to your local farmers market or buy honey from a local beekeeper, remember honey is not just for eating! It has a multitude of other uses. Think of honey as nature’s medicine chest! For more information on honey as nature’s medicine check out the book Honey: The Gourmet Medicine by Joe Traynor.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Honey Harvest

The end of summer has finally arrived and we can harvest honey! We have already gathered the equipment that is required to complete the process: extractor, hot knife, honey buckets, and a strainer. But before we can grab honey supers off the hives, we need to make sure we leave as many bees as possible in the hive. One method to do this is with bee escapes.
Bee escape
Bee escapes are inexpensive and snap into the hole in the inner cover. The inner cover is then
placed below the lowest honey super. It is designed so that any bees in the honey supers can move down into the brood nest section of the hive, but cannot return through the escape to the honey supers. Supers can then be removed from the hive for harvest. Other methods include bee blowers and aromatic sprays that repel the bees. It is the preference of the beekeeper.

Uncapping a frame
Once we have our bee-free honey supers to our honey harvesting facility, we can begin to uncap our frames of honey. The hot knife should be plugged in for a couple minutes to reach optimum heat. The blade should be used to scrape off just the outermost layer of wax cap without gouging into the comb. Uncap both sides of a frame and place it in a basket in the extractor. Continue to uncap frames until your extractor is at capacity.

Ensure the extractor is secured in place. Start turning the hand crank or turn on the motor to spin the baskets in the extractor. The force of spinning will fling the honey out of the comb. If using a tangential extractor, where only one side of the frame faces the outer wall of the extractor, flip the frames around to extract the opposite side. The honey will hit the sides of the extractor and settle to the bottom. The gate on the extractor can be opened to allow honey to flow out. Make sure a honey bucket affixed with a strainer is under the valve! The strainer will separate out any chunks of wax or bee debris.

Depending on the beekeeper, the honey can be bottled at this point. Others may choose to run the honey through a smaller strainer to remove additional wax or debris. The only step left is cleanup.

To see this process in action, check out this video by a previous American Honey Princess.
Video of small scale honey harvest:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Honeybees Need Your Help

Here are five things you can do to help the honeybee.

1. Plant bee-friendly flowers in your yard
There are many flowers that bees really like and we call these ‘bee friendly flowers.’ Bees need flowers to survive. Flowers produce pollen and nectar. The bees collect the pollen to eat for themselves and to feed to their babies back home. Pollen is the bees source of protein, just like you and I need protein to grow healthy and strong, bees need protein as well. Nectar is the bees carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give the bees energy to do all of their many jobs. Honeybees also use the nectar to make honey! You can help provide the bees with food by planting flowers in pots or in your yard for the bees to come and collect pollen and nectar! 

Bees drinking water

2. Make sure the bees have plenty of water
Just like most creatures on earth, bees need water. Water helps to keep the bees hydrated. You can help the bees by creating a little spot for them to come and get clean water to drink. Pour water in a small bowl and add rocks or sticks to the water so there is a place for the bees to land so they don’t drown. Providing the bees with water is a great way to help!

3. Buy local honey
Local honey for sale
You can support beekeepers by buying local honey. Beekeepers work hard to keep their bees alive and healthy so that they can pollinate our food for us. Many times when the bees make honey, the beekeeper will sell that honey to make money to keep taking care of his/her bees. So you can help the honeybee by supporting and buying honey from a beekeeper in your area!

4. Become a beekeeper
Yes, you can be a beekeeper! Beekeepers are all different ages. So whether you are a young kid or a grown adult, you can start keeping bees. The first step to being a good beekeeper is learning as much as you can about honeybees. There are classes and books that will teach you all you need to know to start your own beehive. Starting your own bee hive is a very fun way to help honeybees! 
Kids who started beekeeping
5. Teach others what you know
Lastly you can teach your friends and family what you know about honeybees. You can teach them how important they are to our food supply and to our environment. You and your friends can plant flowers together, or make bee watering spots, or even enjoy eating honey snacks together all while helping the honeybee thrive. 

Honeybees are amazing creatures and they need your help!  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Preparing for Honey Harvest

The bees have been working hard all summer to gather nectar and convert it into honey. The nectar has been deposited into cells in the honeycomb and the bees have fanned it with their wings to evaporate out much of the moisture. The cell is then capped with wax for storage. At this point, it is considered honey. The honey is their food, or where they get their carbohydrates for energy. This is what we will harvest at the end of summer.

In order to prepare for honey harvest, there are a few key pieces of equipment we need to acquire. Keep in mind that beekeepers can have one hive or one thousand hives, which means there are different setups for harvesting honey. The equipment listed here is for a beekeeper that has a small number of hives.

First, we need an extractor. For a small scale beekeeper, this will be the biggest investment for
honey harvest equipment. An extractor is essentially a stainless steel barrel. Inside are baskets that hold frames full of honey. There is a hand crank or motor mounted on top that will spin the baskets inside the steel barrel. At the bottom of the barrel is a gate that controls the flow of honey out of the barrel.

Hot knife
Next is the hot knife. This is a large steel blade that must be plugged in to heat up. It has a wooden handle to protect the user’s hand from being burned. We will also need honey buckets. The quantity depends on how much honey you will be harvesting and bottling. The buckets are a standard five-gallon food grade pail with a gate at the bottom. This bucket will catch the honey from the extractor. For the top of the bucket, some type of strainer is needed. 

Depending on the facility where you are harvesting honey, you may want to cover the floor with a layer of plastic. Honey is incredibly sticky and tends to get everywhere! The plastic will help make cleanup a breeze. Don’t forget about bottles. Small plastic bears to large glass jars are all acceptable, provided they are clean and do not have residues from other foods. Remember to set aside a whole day or more for harvesting, it’s not something you can rush. Once you have all the necessary equipment, you’re ready for harvest!
Honey bucket
Plastic bottle

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Honey: In the Kitchen

Have you ever tried honey and peanut butter together on a sandwich? How about honey on your pancakes for breakfast? Honey is a great complement to every meal! It can be eaten by the spoonful or mixed with other ingredients to make some deliciously sweet  dishes. 
First, choosing which kind of honey you would like to use. Honey comes in all colors and flavors! In fact, there are more than 300 different varieties of honey in the United States and over 3,000 worldwide. Each of these honeys has a different color and flavor. The flavor of honey is determined by the nectar the bees gathered. Different flowers produce different flavors as well as different colors of honey. Some honey can be light in color and very clear, almost like water. Bees can also make honey that is thick and dark like molasses. Typically, the lighter the honey in color, the milder in flavor. Darker honey is stronger and bolder in flavor. Lighter honeys, like clover honey are great to eat on toast or to sweeten drinks. Many people like to sweeten coffee or hot tea with honey. Honey and green tea is great for when you have a sore throat. The hot tea helps to sooth while the honey coats and works to heal your throat. The next time you have a sore or itchy throat, try adding 2 tablespoons of honey to one cup of hot tea. Darker honeys like Buckwheat are great for cooking and baking. 

Here are three tips when you are baking with honey.
  1. Reduce the liquid called for in the recipe by ¼ for each cup of honey used. 
  2. Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey used. 
  3. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F to prevent over browning. 

Whether you’re making a honey glaze for a ham or just adding it to fruits or vegetables in a recipe, the stronger honey will add a bold delicious flavor. Try this simple recipe for honey carrots! Combine 1 cup carrots, 1 tablespoon butter and three tablespoons honey. Heat on medium heat for 12 minutes. Stir and enjoy! Both lighter and darker honey is a great alternative to other syrups. If you want to try something new, use honey instead of maple syrup on pancakes and waffles. Or next time you want some chocolate or strawberry milk, try adding honey instead! Try it on your ice cream. 
Besides its deliciously sweet taste, honey also has many health benefits that make it good for you. Honey is a good source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel for energy. This makes it a great energy booster! If you play sports, try some honey before your next game or practice to give you an extra energy boost. Many athletes and Olympians use honey for energy. There are also lots of vitamins and minerals in honey. Vitamins and minerals boost your immune system, help you grow and develop properly and help cells and organs do their jobs. Lastly, honey is antibacterial, so it kills bacteria and keeps you healthy. 
One last tip: remember to keep honey in your pantry--not your refrigerator. The cold will cause it to crystallize. However, if your honey does crystallize, put the container in a bowl of warm water and the crystals will dissolve. Honey never spoils!