Those who understand honey know that the flavour and characteristics of the honey depend on which plants and flora the bees have visited. Honey created from certain plant nectars often take on certain characteristics which reflect their origin. Some will be sweet and simple, while others give a far more complex flavour. It can also determine the nutrient content of the honey, its texture, colour, and how quickly it crystallises.
Why is raw sunflower honey rarely in the supermarkets?
Raw sunflower honey is one of the fastest types of honey to crystallise. It does this within a short period, forming a firm, fondant-like texture composed of fine crystals. This means that raw sunflower honey is very difficult, labour intensive, and time-consuming to pour into consumer packaging. Crystalised raw honey can look visually-unappealing to many consumers and it is often associated with old or expired honey.
Many commercial producers overcome crystallisation by heating up raw honey to permanently return it into its liquid state. Unfortunately, this process breaks down much of the anti-bacterial properties of the honey as well as reducing its potency, flavour, and colour. The resulting honey is neither raw, unpasteurised or healthy, due to the processing it has gone through.
Sunflower honey is not amongst the best-known types of honey in many areas, yet for flavour, texture and content, it is widely agreed amongst those who have tried it to be one of the finest.
What Sets Sunflower Honey Apart ?
The sunflower is one of the most widely recognised flowers. These tall, impressive blooms are characterised by their large flower heads, which follow the sun and which can grow to up to 30cm in diameter. Sunflowers are usually grown for their seeds, which can be eaten as is, or turned into vegetable oil.
Raw sunflower honey should consist of above 45% sunflower pollen. The honey created by bees which have primarily collected the nectar from sunflower fields, is defined by its:
- High level of glucose and fructose, low glucose/fructose ratio & low level of sucrose. (Details of its composition mean that it crystallises quickly, often in as few as 20 days.)
- Bright, yellowish colour of a medium intensity.
- A medium sweetness, strong acidity and short aftertaste. The flavour is said to be fresh on the palette.
What Are The Benefits of Sunflower Honey ?
Sunflower honey has several positive characteristics, each of which comes with certain benefits, either for the honey producer (and the bees they keep) or for those eating the honey. These benefits include:
- High Yields – Collection of nectar is possible during a bee colony’s most active period.
Honey bees are at their most active on warm, sunny days in July, when sunflowers are at their peak. This can lead to higher yields of nectar for bees (and honey from each beehive for the producer).
- Purity – Sunflower honey does not contain harmful pollutants.
One of the most important characteristics of sunflower honey, of which few people are aware, is its purity. Any pollutants or harmful substances from the soil are retained in the stem of the plants. As a result, the nectar collected by bees remains pure. The purity also comes from the fact that most sunflower crops are grown organically, without harmful insecticides.
- Fast Crystallisation – Allowing for faster absorption of nutrients when eaten.
The fast crystallisation may be viewed by some as one of the downsides to this honey. In fact, there are health benefits to eating crystallised honey. Keeping a piece of crystallised honey under your tongue allows more of the nutrients to be taken up by the sublingual glands.
Raw sunflower honey is considered as one of nature’s true superfoods and it plays an important role as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent. With a range of health-boosting metabolites, raw sunflower honey can be considered a healthier alternative to sweeten food and drinks.