Honey is so good that many ancient civilizations believed that it was food for the gods. Besides its delicious taste, honey is also loved because of its health benefits. But did you know there are different kinds of honey? Let’s specifically talk about wildflower honey and clover honey.
Wildflower honey is made by bees that pollinate different kinds of flowers. Therefore, its quality can vary. Clover honey is honey made by bees that pollinate clover plants. Although wildflower quality can vary, it generally has a light and fruity but rich flavor. Clover honey has milder flavors.
Both kinds of honey can be used for eating and cooking. But the two are slightly different. Hence, each has uses that are more appropriate for itself. Keep reading below to learn more.
A Word About Honey
Before we go into the specifics of wildflower and clover honey, let’s first talk about what honey is. Honey is a sweet syrup made by bees.
There are different kinds of bees. The honey we consume is made by the kind that we appropriately call honey bees. The bees make honey from floral nectar.
Nectar is a sugary liquid that plants produce. Usually, the plants make the nectar in the flowers. In this way, insects and other animals are attracted to the flowers. The pollens are also found in the flowers. By attracting animals there, the plants can spread their pollen through the animals.
In a hive, bees have different roles. Some bees regularly leave the hive to forage for nectar (and pollen). The bees suck and collect the nectar in a part of their body called nectar sacs.
When the sacs are full, the bees return to the hive. These bees then transfer the nectar to other bees that stay in the hive. The bees pass the nectar around. As they do, the moisture content of the nectar goes down to about 20%.
This process changes the nectar to the syrupy substance that we call honey. The honey is then stored within cells in the hive. It is capped with beeswax. The honey is kept until it is ready for consumption for newborn bees.
Raw Vs Processed Honey
Honey can be raw or processed. The only processing that raw honey goes through is straining. Straining removes any debris and particulate matter like beeswax and even dead bees. The end product is honey that has a clean and clear finish. Raw honey still contains all the nutrients and enzymes it originally has from when the bees make it.
Processed honey is usually treated with heat. The straining process mentioned above is difficult because honey is viscous and sticky. However, heating the honey makes it flowier and less sticky. Honey is often heated to 150°-170°F (66°–77°C).
The heat also reduces the moisture content and kills yeast that can ferment the honey. The heat also delays crystallization. Crystallization is the process where the sugars in honey form into crystals.
Over time, you will see these crystals deposit on the walls of the honey container. Crystallization is a natural process. It doesn’t mean the honey has gone bad.
The honey syrup itself can taste different, particularly less sweet since it “lost” some of its sugars to the crystals. Hence, crystallization is a natural and safe process that isn’t desired in honey.
After heating, the honey is filtered to further delay crystallization. All in all, heating enhances the shelf life. Unfortunately, the heat destroys much of the nutrients and enzymes. It changes the flavor and aroma of the honey. It also makes the honey turn darker.
An alternative to heat is ultrasonication. Ultrasonication uses ultrasound to kill any yeast cells and break down any crystals. The process typically happens at 95°F (35°C). Hence, ultrasonication avoids the downsides of heat processing.
Creaming is another honey processing that controls crystallization. Creamed honey has a large number of small crystals called seed crystals. These smaller crystals prevent larger crystals from forming.
They do so by promoting smaller crystals to form instead. The seed crystals are typically made of the same material as the crystals they promote. The honey is mixed with the seed crystals at a temperature of around 55°–70° F (13°–21° C). Creamed honey has a smooth, spreadable consistency
As mentioned earlier, wildflower honey is honey made by bees that pollinate and collect nectar from different plants. Hence, wildflower honey is also called polyfloral. Because the honey is from the nectar of different plants, the quality and flavors can vary.
Choosing Wildflower Honey
Wildflower honey from the same region can still have the same or similar traits. The reason is that the plants from that region would also be the same or similar.
So, when choosing wildflower honey, it is important to consider the place of origin. It is also important to consider whether you get raw or processed wildflower honey.
Below are the traits of wildflower honey that you want to look for:
- The appearance is clear
- The color can be pale yellow, dark shades of red or brown, or white opaque
- The aroma and taste can be inconsistent throughout the season. But the general trend of the aroma and taste is sweet and floral.
Clover honey is honey by made bees that pollinate and collect nectar from clover plants. Because the plant source is the same, clover honey is also known as monofloral. Moreover, since the honey is monofloral, the characteristics are more consistent.
Clover plants are part of the genus Trifolium. It is a type of plant that grows in temperate and subtropical climates in the world. There are about 300 species of flower clover plants.
However, the most important for honey production are White or Dutch Clover, Alsike Clover, Red Clover, and Crimson Clover. The clover plants are common fodder crops. So, clover plants are widespread and are easy sources of pollen and nectar for bees.
They are also hardy plants that can survive winters. Much of the clover honey is made from agricultural clover crops, but some can still be made from wild clovers. They are also part of the legume family, a family of plants that naturally adds nitrogen to the oils.
Choosing Clover Honey
Below are the traits of clover honey that you want to look for:
- The appearance has some degree of transparency
- The color is medium yellow, pale amber, or almost white in color
- The aroma is flowery thanks to the clover flowers. The taste is light and mild. There are also delicate floral notes from the clover flowers.
Wildflower Honey Vs. Clover Honey
Written above are the traits of wildflower honey and clover honey. As you can imagine, the differences between them are subtle. When it comes to appearance and color, both can vary.
That’s why you may find wildflower honey and clover honey that look similar. As for aroma and taste, clover honey can have a more floral aroma but a milder taste. When it comes to aroma and taste, which you should choose will largely depend on your preference.
Before you dive into how you can use honey, it is important to know if you are allergic to it. Honey allergies are rare. When it is present, it can be serious. Among the effects are itching, hives, or swelling of your mouth, throat, or skin. The main culprit isn’t the honey itself, but the impurities in the honey.
Those allergy-causing impurities are mainly pollen and bee parts. With raw honey, these impurities are normally removed through straining. However, some can slip through.
A tiny amount of these impurities may trigger an allergic reaction in a sensitive person. With processed honey, you don’t have to worry about these impurities at all.
If you know you are allergic to pollen or bee parts (not the bee sting), then be careful when using honey. It doesn’t matter if you use wildflower or clover honey. You can get a reaction if any of those allergens are present.
When to Use Wildflower or Clover Honey
Because of the subtle differences between the two, how each honey is used is also subtly different
As mentioned earlier, clover honey has a milder and more consistent taste. Hence, it is usually more consumed than wildflower honey.
The consistent taste means you can buy clover honey again and again and be sure of how it will taste. The milder taste also means it is easy to agree with.
Cooking and Baking
Both kinds of honey can be used for cooking. Which one to use would depend on what you are cooking and how you want it to taste and smell. Clover honey is great for cooking if you want notes of honey that don’t overpower the other flavors.
In baking, both kinds of honey can be used as an alternative or additional sweetener. They also impart their floral aroma to your finished product. In cookies, honey tends to give a chewy texture instead of crunchy.
Meanwhile in cakes, using honey tends to give tighter crumbs. Clover honey is also great as a topping or drip for cookies, pies, cupcakes, etc.
Honey is known for its anti-bacterial and preservative qualities. Hence, it is great for marinading. You can marinade raw meats in honey without worrying about spoilage from microorganisms.
Marinades with honey go well with soy sauce and citrus flavors, like lemon juice. Use wildflower honey if you want to impart a stronger honey flavor on what you’re marinading. Use clover honey if you want milder notes of honey.
Grilling With Honey
An important aspect of grilling is getting the beautiful browning from Maillard reactions. There are two necessary components for the Maillard reactions to happen.
The first component is amino acids. The amino acids can be provided by the proteins in whatever protein source you are grilling. The second component is sugars that can be oxidized, which are also known as reducing sugars.
Examples of reducing sugars are glucose and fructose. Both glucose and fructose are the major sugars in honey. Hence, honey can enhance the browning in grilling. It can also enhance the crispy finish.
In meats, honey helps retain moisture. The sugars in honey can act as a humectant, a substance that retains moisture. Hence, when grilling meats with honey, you can get a nice browning, a crispy finish, and a juice interior.
A challenge with grilling with honey burning it. Honey is delicate because it burns easily, so it takes some skill when grilling with it. A great way to avoid burning your honey is to blend it properly.
Blending is important because honey is viscous and sticky. While you can use honey in a marinade, you shouldn’t let your marinade be pure honey. Doing so risks having an inconsistent coating of honey on your food.
The parts with too much or too little honey can burn. Hence, it is better to mix honey with another liquid, like oil or juice. The proportions will vary depending on your recipe and grilling skills.
Honey is known for its health benefits because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. You don’t have to consume honey to reap those benefits. Topical treatment like in skincare works just as well.
Using honey in skincare goes way back. Ancient Egyptians used honey for making cosmetics. In the Ming Dynasty of China (1368 to 1644 A.D), honey was also used for skin care.
Honey can be used for clearing acne, healing scars, and evening the skin tone. When it comes to skincare, you can use either wildflower honey or clover honey. Which you’ll use will depend on your preference for aroma and how either feels on your skin.
Whichever you’ll use, it is important that it is raw honey. You want the antioxidants and other nutrients in raw honey on your skin. Raw honey can be beneficial if you have an autoimmune skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.
One of the many causes of acne and pimples is bacteria. Since honey has an anti-bacterial process, it can help control those blemishes. Raw honey is also a natural exfoliator.
Hence, applying it to your face takes off dry, dull skin. It helps reveal new healthy skin underneath. As mentioned earlier, honey is a humectant. Hence, it is great for moisturizing skin.
A simple way to use honey on your face is to spread a thin layer of it on your face. Let that layer sit there for 10 minutes, then rinse it off. Mix honey with spices that are known to have high amounts of antioxidants. Some spices you can mix honey with are cinnamon, cloves powder, and ginger powder.
Honey is also great for your hair. Just as honey is a great moisturizer for skin, it is also a great moisturizer for hair and scalp. It can also reduce hair breakage, reduce frizz, and restore shine. It doesn’t matter whether you use wildflower honey or clover honey. What matters is that you use raw honey.
Honey is a great natural versatile product. You can eat it on its own, like what Winnie the Pooh did. You can incorporate it into your cooking. Or you can use it to take care of your skin and hair.
While there are differences between wildflower honey and clover honey, both are good. The subtle differences between the two mean each can be more appropriate in certain situations. But in the end, which you use will depend on your preferences.
Give both a try the next time you’ll use honey.