November 27, 2016

Monofloral vs Polyfloral

Not all honeys are created equal, and we’re here to tell you the differences.

     Monofloral honey is created when bees gather the majority of their nectar from a singular flower source. This is done by either monitoring of the flora’s bloom cycles and the corresponding honey flow, or by placing hives in a location in which they are nearly completely isolated from other nectar sources. What the hive then yields, is a true bulk representation of that flower’s nectar, transformed into honey. These honey’s qualities can vary from one another as greatly as the shape and size of the flowers from which the nectar was gathered.

     Polyfloral honeys are most commonly represented by wildflower honeys. Created by the nectars of an indistinguishable blend of wildflowers, it varies in character by season, depending upon the flowers that are in bloom. Spring wildflower is generally light and fragrant, and preferred as food by the bees to rebuild the hive’s population following the long winter. Fall wildflower is normally a much richer honey of deep amber color with caramelized sugar, earthiness, and a strong spiciness.

Wildflower honeys have a very geographically unique flavor that lends itself strongly to the concept of “terrior” so often discussed in the wine world.

 

 

Common Monofloral Varieties

 

white-clover

Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Clover honey is the most abundant monofloral honey in this part of the US. Pure clover honey has a spicy character reminiscent of cinnamon, is quite sweet due to its high fructose content, and has a beautiful golden hue. It makes a fantastic table honey and is the variety most people think of when they imagine the taste of honey.

photo by Ghabara

Photo by Ghabara

Orange Blossom honey is gathered from beehives placed in orange groves, most prolifically in California or Florida. It’s the second most common monofloral you’re likely to come across. Its flavor and aroma are floral with a hint of citrus zest. Its color is a deep orange to amber.

1024px-prosopis_pubescens_inflorescence_2003-06-02

Photo by Curtis Clark

Mesquite honey is from the same tree that’s synonymous with Texas BBQ. With this tree’s blossoms the bees create a beautiful light amber honey with an earthy, floral, and spicy character. It is quite sweet and is a honey that plays well with others.

Photo by waywardspark

Meadowfoam honey is harvested from beehives placed in large fields of meadowfoam in the PNW. The plant is most extensively grown in the Willamette Valley in Oregon for seed-oil production. When in bloom, the entire field is comprised of a sea of tiny white flowers, flowing like waves in the breeze. The honey itself is a deep amber color with a flavor and aroma reminiscent of vanilla and toasted marshmallow.

tupelo

Photo from Smileys Apiaries

Tupelo honey is most commonly gathered from the White Tupelo tree. It’s a large water-loving tree found in river swamp environments in the southeastern US. Some beekeepers keep their hives on platforms or even boats to avoid losing their colonies to the frequent flooding. The honey itself is very sweet and tastes fruity, almost berrylike.  Van Morrison didn’t write that song for nothing!

starthistle

Photo by USDA

Star Thistle honey is light gold to an almost green cast and crystallizes readily. The flavor is moderately sweet with a strong grassy or vegetal character that is followed by an almost anise or menthol quality. It is a superb honey to blend with as it can give a depth of character that most honeys don’t come near.

Sources:

Lovell, J. H. (1926). Honey Plants of North America. Medina, Ohio: The A. I. Root Company.

Pellett, F. C. (1947). American Honey Plants (4th ed.). New York, New York: Orange Judd Publishing Company.