A natural sweetener (even sweeter than sugar!) to add intense flavor to your favorite recipes, a rich source of carbohydrates to naturally and healthfully replenish your energy, and a wealth of natural vitamins, enzymes, and phytonutrients to boost your immune system – honey is one of nature’s greatest gifts.
To best reap the benefits of honey, a local group of beekeepers collectively runs the Willapa River Beekeeping Club (WRBC). Several of the WRBC members have decades of experience keeping honeybees and producing honey. Established by Paul Young in January 2012, this relatively new club has introduced the benefits of keeping bees to the community by providing information to the public at local events and seminars such as the Pacific County Fair, the Timberland Libraries, and service clubs at the Willapa Valley Grange.
In addition to providing information to the public, the club works together to combine knowledge and experience on beekeeping and mentors new beekeepers. They will also remove honeybee swarms from your property, which allows your unwanted bees to go to new beekeepers in need of honey-makers.
Young explained that honey offers many health benefits. “It is an excellent source of immediately available carbohydrates. It’s bactericidal and bacteriostatic - bacteria cannot live in it and it’s used as a wound treatment.” Honey can be used as a natural cough suppressant, with just a spoonful of honey to coat and soothe the throat as a natural alternative to over-the-counter cough medicines, according to the National Honey Board (NHB). Also, honey is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture and is a natural way to care for skin and hair by adding a squeeze of honey to lotions, creams, and conditioners at home, says the NHB.
Young also points out, “If it is honey that is fully processed by the bees (less than 18% water) and has not been diluted with water, it never spoils.”
There are different types of honey and speculation in the honey-producing community as to which kind offers the most health benefits. For example, honey can be heated and pasteurized or it can be left raw. Many, including Young, claim that uncooked honey is preferable.
According to Young, pasteurizing honey destroys some of its enzymes and changes its flavor. “As far as I know, we all bottle "raw" (unpasteurized) honey because it is considered more healthful and it certainly tastes better than pasteurized honey. Pasteurized honey does taste good, but raw honey is noticeably better tasting,” Young said. Young pointed out that raw honey should not be given to children under one year of age.
The second variable in the type of honey is the degree of filtering, as honey can be filtered to different extents. It can be done so for absolute clarity, which is what is sold in grocery stores. This honey has had all beeswax, comb, pollen, and other particles removed. It can also be lightly filtered to remove beeswax and comb particles, but leaving bits of pollen and a slightly cloudy appearance - this is the technique preferred in the WRBC.
While pollen is an accidental guest in the recipe for honey, picked up by bees when they collect their nectar from flower and plants, some honey-producers have recently speculated that the presence of local pollen bits in honey can prevent allergies. According to WebMD, this claim is a medical myth - springtime allergies are caused by honey that travels in the winds from nonflowering trees, weeds, and grasses, not the type of pollen that is found in honey, and so exposure to local pollen from flowering plants in your honey doesn’t build up immunity to the pollen causing your allergies.
Nonetheless, honey can be used in a number of recipes to add a natural sweet kick and all those natural enzymes. It can serve as a substitute for granulated sugar in recipes. According to the National Honey Board, it’s best to begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for. When you substitute in baked goods, the oven temperature must be reduced by 25°F to avoid over-browning. Also, all liquids called for in the recipe must be reduced by ¼ cup and ½ teaspoon of baking soda must be added for each cup of honey used. Remember, honey is much sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it to get your desired sweetness!
With summertime quickly approaching, keep the WRBC in mind if you have a swarm that needs to be removed. Contact either Paul Young at (360) 580-6261, Dutch Holland at 942-3415, or Denise Bell at (360) 581-7305 for swarm removal or questions about the club. The next meeting for the WRBC is Sunday, May 18th from 4-6 at the Menlo Fire Station on SR 6.