Honing in on Honey: Sweet Treats for National Honey Month

As you know, we’re keen on pollinators, some of agriculture’s hardest working insects. While all pollinators are important for their contributions to our favorite landscapes, fruits, nuts and veggies, honey bees sweeten the pot (pun intended!) in that they also produce sweet, golden honey. September is National Honey Month, and in honor of this observance, let’s take a closer look into why this delicacy – and the insects that produce it – are so special!

A Brief History

Bee Pollinating a FlowerFor millions of years, honey bees have pollinated crops and foraged for their hives, converting nectar into honey, a sticky, sweet substance that has no real expiration date. Archeologists have found rock art illustrating the honey bee’s importance in ancient civilizations within Africa, India and Spain, and several countries within the Roman Empire established and maintained beekeeping centers until its collapse in 400 A.D.

When Europeans migrated to North America in the 17th century, many brought honey bees and their beekeeping skills with them. The 19th century saw the invention of the moveable-frame hive, the smoker and other devices that transformed traditional beekeeping into a commercial industry. This was so successful that industrialized countries began developing their agriculture practices around the honey bees’ migratory routes. These pollinators soon became a precious commodity, one that we still treasure today.

As far as honey is concerned, each hive can produce between 25 and 60 pounds of honey per season. Not just an addition to tea or breakfast cereals, it’s a staple in human diets all around the world and is renowned for its health benefits, often labeled a “super food” for its energy- and nutrient-rich properties. Some cultures even follow the routes of honey bees to ensure they stay close to the hives and get “first dibs” on the honey. Others go to great lengths to collect honey and sell it at their local market.

So, next time you buy honey at your local grocery store or farmers market, be sure to note the sweet history of one of the world’s most enduring foods!

Honey Recipes

What better way to commemorate National Honey Month than with a meal swarming in honey? Below, you’ll find two recipes – one as a main course and one as a dessert – from the National Honey Board. Happy celebrating!

Jungle Honey Lettuce Cups

Jungle Honey Lettuce Cups
Photo Credit: National Honey Board

These lettuce cups are the perfect blend of sweet and tangy, and you can use chicken or turkey as your meat option – or even go meatless with tofu! Perfect for any summer or early fall occasion and easy to create in bulk, you can bring these to your next get-together with friends or family. This recipe makes 6 servings.

What you'll need:

Honey - 3 tbsps
Soy sauce - 2 tbsps
Rice vinegar - 1 tbsps
Sesame oil - 1/2 tbsps
Olive oil - 2 tbsps
Small onion, diced (1)
Cloves of garlic, grated (2)
Ground chicken, turkey or tofu - 1 1/2 pounds
Shredded carrots - 1/2 cup
Shredded purple cabbage - 1/2 cup
Bean sprouts - 1/2 cup
Honey roasted peanuts - 1/3 cup
Butter lettuce leaves - for serving

Putting it all together:

Making the Sauce

Whisk ingredients in a small bowl to combine honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside.

Lettuce Cup Fillings

Sauté olive oil and onions over medium-high heat in a large skillet for about 3-4 minutes, or until they become golden and transparent. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 1 minute. Add ground meat/tofu and shredded carrots to the skillet. Stirring frequently to break apart the pieces of meat or tofu, cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the filling is cooked throughout.

Now, you can add the sauce. Pour it over the cooked filling, and stir to mix it in. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Place bean sprouts, chopped cabbage and roasted peanuts on top of your mixture and cover again to simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Put the mixture into lettuce cups and serve!

Velvety Honey-Chocolate Pudding

Perfect to pair with the lettuce cups, this makes 4-6 servings and is a cold treat for warm evenings.

What you'll need:

Eucalyptus honey - 1/4 cup
Unsweetened cocoa powder - 1/4 cup
Cornstarch - 3 tbsps
Milk - 1 1/2 cups
Heavy cream - 1/2 cup
Semisweet chocolate, chopped - 2 oz. (or 2 squares)
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

Velvety Honey Chocolate Pudding
Photo Credit: National Honey Board

Putting it all together:

Whisk the cocoa and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until completely blended.

Heat the milk, cream and eucalyptus honey until warmed. You can use a separate saucepan on medium heat, or you can microwave a 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir to blend. Slowly whisk the mixtures together until both the cocoa and cornstarch are dissolved and the mixture doesn’t have any lumps. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture gently over medium heat until it begins to thicken.

Add the chocolate and slowly bring to a boil, stirring gently for about 1 minute, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, and then stir in the vanilla.

Pour into a serving bowl or pudding cups. Refrigerate until slightly chilled or cold. Serve and enjoy!


Sources:

https://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/honey-bees-a-history/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/humans-the-honey-hunters-9760262/

https://www.bbka.org.uk/learn/general_information/honey

https://honey.com/recipe/jungle-honey-lettuce-cups

https://honey.com/recipe/velvety-honey-chocolate-pudding