Saturday, July 4, 2015

Flowers for Honey: What to Grow

Like wine-tasting notes derived from viticulture, honeys are also influenced by plants that bees forage and subsequently have tastes distinctive to these species. Common garden plants and wildflowers with their honey-tasting notes can be found in The Beekeeper’s Bible (Jones, R. & Sweeney-Lynch, S., 2011) with a summary of general blooming times and species photos. (Some species included are international in location, but worth noting for foreign honeys consumed.)

Start planning your next perennial planting with consideration for the honeybees. Here are lists provided by The Beekeeper’s Bible for edible honeys, unappetizing honeys and a list for common garden plants to attract honeybees.

Late Spring/Summer Flowering 
Acacia (wattle, mimosa) – (May-July) Honey very clear and liquid pale
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) – (June-Aug) Honey pale, white or light amber and sometimes described as minty
Blueberry (bilberry, whortleberry) Vaccinium species and cranberry – (two weeks in May through Aug) Fruity and faint buttery finish
Borage (Borago officinalis) – (June-Sept) Pale honey
Bramble blackberry (Rubus fruiticosus) – (June-Sept) Honey medium colored, coarse flavored
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) – (June-Sept) Dark honey, strong flavored by hints of molasses and malt
Canola (Brassica napus) – (May-Aug) Fine clear honey that granulates quickly
False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) – (Jun-July) Light honey, good density and flavor
Hawthorn (Cataegus monogyna) – (May-June) Dark amber honey with nutty flavor
Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) Ireland import – (June-Sept) Golden honey thin and sharp flavored
Lavendar (Lavendula) species France and Spain – Pale golden honey, pleasant tasting with fine granulation to a texture resembling butter
Lime Tree (Tilia platyphylos. T. cordata, T. americana) – (2-3 weeks in June thru Aug depending on latitude) Light greenish honey with slightly minty taste
Melilots sweet clover (Melilotus alba, M. officinalis and M. indica) – (June-Sept) Pale greenish-yellow honey with slight cinnamon flavor
Rata Tree Metrosideros species New Zealand – (Nov-Mar) White, clear honey
Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) – (June-Aug) Lemon yellow honey
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) – (May-Jun) Honey is dark amber and sharp and bitter
Thistle (Cirsium arvense) – (Jun-Aug) Pale, flavorful honey
Tuilip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) – (May-June) Dark amber honey with strong flavor

Late Flowering
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) – (July-Sept) Lightly flavored honey and pale amber
Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium and Epilobium species) rosebay, willow herbs – (July-Sept) Pale, white subtle flavor with tea-like notes
Fuschia species – (July-Sept) Honey is light colored, but very mild and insipid
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) – (July-Oct) Pale colored, slightly strong almost spicy flavor
Heather (Erica) found in the UK – (July-Sept) Honey is a deep brown, port wine color
Ivy (Hedera helix) – (Oct-Dec) Honey is grayish white with delicate odor and bitter flavor, granulates quickly
Sunflower (Helianthus anuus) – (July-Oct) Light amber honey with subtle citrus undertones

Early Spring/Long Flowering
Almond (Prunus dulcis) – (Feb.) Honey generally regarded as being of poor quality, mostly used in the bakery trade
Apples Malus species – (April-June) Huge varieties of cultivars, Honey light amber with good flavor, granulates quickly
Avacado (Persea americana) – (March-April) Dark amber honey with strong flavor of caramelized molasses
Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) – (All year blooming) Strong amber honey
Clovers (Trifolium hybridum, T. repens) – (May-Oct) Honey is pale and gently flavored with the scent of the flowers
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – (March-Sept) Golden coarse-grained honey
Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) – (March-May) Good honey from early source
Gum Tree Eucalyptus species – (April-July) Distinctive honey flavor and odor; E. polyanthemos is dark amber and very dense; E. meliodora produces pale and thin honey
Holly (Ilex aquifolium, I. opaca, I. glabra) – (April-July) Pale colored and finely flavored
Leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida) – (Nov-April) Honey strongly spicy, an acquired taste
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) found in New Zealand – (Sept-May) Full-bodied, herbaceous, sweet tasting honey
Maple Tree Acer species – (April-June) Honey pale yellow or greenish, mild flavor, sometimes regarded as indifferent
Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) – (March-Sept) Honey varies from white to amber with smoky scent of molasses or brown sugar
Needle Bush Hakea and Grevillea species Australia – (Blooming all year depending on species) Sweet clear honey
Oranges Citrus species – (March-April)  Delicious honey, pale and dense with distinct fruit taste and echoes of blossom
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – (March-Nov) Medium-bodied honey with thick texture
Thyme Thymus species – (May-Sept) Honey has intense aroma and aromatic flavor
Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) – (April-June) Honey is light amber in color, smooth and very sweet

Unappetizing Honey
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – (May-June) All parts of plant are toxic, honey believed poisonous
Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) – (May-June) Honey very strong flavored unless blended with lighter honeys
Ragwort Senecio species – (June-Nov) Rank, bitter tasting honey
Rhododendron (Rhododendrum ponticum) – (Spring and summer flowers depending on species and location) Honey poisonous
Spurge Euphorbia species – (Flowering dependent on location and species) South African species produces bitter honey, burning sensation in mouth

Common Garden Plants to Attract Honeybees
Apiaceae, carrot family:  Angelica archangelica and lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Asteraceae, daisy family:  Cosmos, chicory, fleabane, globe thistle, ox-eye, shasta daisy, sunflower, yarrow
Boraginaceae, borage family:  alkanet, borage, viper’s bugloss
Brassicaceae, cabbage family:  candytuft, charlock, golden alyssum, honesty, mignonette, rockcress, sweet rocket, wallflower
Campanulaceae, bellflower family:  bellflowers
Cannabaceae, hemp family:  hop (Humulus lupulus)
Dipsacaceae, teasel family:  scabious, teasel
Elaeagnaceae family:  oleaster
Fabaceae, pea family:  broom Cytisus species
Grossulariaceae, gooseberry family:  currant
Lamiaceae, mint family:  marjorum, mint Mentha species
Liliaceae, lily family:  grape hyacinth
Limnanthaceae, meadowfoam family:  poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)
Lythraceae, loosestrife family:  loosestrife
Malvaceae, mallow family:  hollyhock, mallow
Onagraceae, willowherb family:  evening primrose
Polemoniaceae, phlox family:  phlox
Primulaceae, primrose family:  polyanthus
Rosaceae, rose family:  cotoneaster
Rutaceae, citrus family:  bergamot
Valeruabaceae, valerian family:  valerian

Jones, R. &  Sweeney-Lynch, S. (2011). The Beekeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori and Chang; First edition

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