About three victual experiences have bordered on orgasmic for me: The first was a locally sourced meal at the Milford Bistro in Prince Edward County, back when Karin and Michael ran it (they’ve since opened a bigger resto called Harvest, which I have yet to try, as it’s in Middle of Nowhere, Ontario); the second was the heady, silken intensity of SOMA’s olive oil dark chocolate truffle cone just as it reached room temperature.
The third was the gently floral, opalescent and absolute perfect sweetness of Volcano Island‘s organic white honey, a jar of which was recently given to me by an eco-minded friend who’d been in Hawaii. As their website says, this honey “floats off your tongue, leaving you to savor its subtle, yet rich, tropical essence … National Geographic Traveler magazine calls it ‘some of the best honey in the world.'” It comes from a single floral source, is certified organic, unheated and raw — and it’s nothing short of ambrosia.
You can read all about Volcano Island’s other sumptuous honeys and their labour-intensive collection and extraction process here.
Before I tried this, I actually wasn’t much of a honey fan. I’d grown up on that ultra-processed stuff that comes in a hive- or bear-shaped plastic tub, occasionally trying the harder varieties but getting frustrated when it wouldn’t disperse evenly on my Cheerios.
But there’s another reason why it’s important to stop and think before buying honey: Colony Collapse Disorder, which was in the news a lot last year when bees began disappearing at an alarming rate. It’s worrying not just because it translates into higher honey prices but because every third bite of food we eat depends on bee pollination.
Interestingly, as Treehugger pointed out a little while ago, despite the fact that record numbers of bees in North America and Europe were vanishing en masse, organic beekeepers reported no losses.
I asked my lovely assistant Eva to help me figure out what difference it makes when we buy raw and/or organic honey as opposed to regular honey, and she came back with tons of information. Here’s what she said:
- Raw honey is better in terms of health benefits, in maintaining the integrity of the honey, and in saving the energy that would be used in the pasteurization process.
“When honey is processed commercially, it is finely filtered and heated. Filtering removes most pollen particles and heat can change the color, taste and destroy vitamins. Additives have even been discovered in commercially processed honey.” Sources here and here.
“Raw unfiltered honey is unheated and unfiltered honey with zero additives containing the natural bee pollens, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and energy providing elements health food researchers and raw food proponents have found beneficial to the human body.” Source here.
- Organic is better for our health, for the health of the bees, and for preserving pesticide-free plants for the bees to pollinate and live off of.
“Organic honey not only is safe to eat, but also helps keep our planet healthy. Organic beekeepers sustain the natural life cycle of bees by safeguarding their natural habitat, and nourishing them as nature intended. And because certifying a hive as organic is costly, they don’t exterminate the bees at the end of the season — a common practice in conventional beekeeping.” Source here.
- In choosing organic honey, you’re choosing not to contribute to a system that seems to be gradually destroying the earth’s bee population. Also, one of the theories about colony collapse has to do with the bees reacting negatively to GMO crops, particularly corn.
So in conclusion, she says: Raw organic honey is the most eco-friendly honey you can buy. And by supporting organic bee keepers, you’re helping to maintain a population of healthy bees, without which many crops would not be able to grow, because they wouldn’t get pollinated, and then we wouldn’t get food. We really need bees!
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, my mum was also kind enough to send me this medical article about the various uses of honey as an alternative topical treatment for wounds.
Either way, from now on, I’ll only be buying honey that’s both raw and organic.