What is Raw Honey?

Honey is a natural product, and it’s not going to be totally uniform every single time. The small variations are actually a benefit to you, because that’s how you know you’ve found an honest source.

Honey is the sweet substance we all know made by honeybees. Bees collect nectar from flowers, mix it with unique enzymes, deposit it into honeycomb and let it “ripen” until it contains only about 18% moisture. It is essentially highly concentrated flower nectar.
Beekeepers use centrifugal force to spin the honey from the comb during extraction. At that time, pollen gets mixed in with the honey as bees store pollen alongside honey in the honeycomb cells.
The liquid honey is then strained to remove wax particles. At this point, we have what the bees produced- raw honey. It is a living food as the enzymes honey contains are active and beneficial to human health.
Much commercially-available honey, however, is highly processed. It is filtered to remove pollen and heated to pasteurize it. This is done to preserve the shelf-life of the product. If the honey contains pollen and is not pasteurized, honey will crystallize much more quickly. Most people expect their honey to remain liquid and squeeze from a bear, and this presentation will not work with raw honey.
Our honey is bottled in a wide-mouth jar so you can reach the bottom once the honey crystallizes inside. We do not filter or pasteurize our honey. It is warmed to a maximum temperature of 110 degrees F to make it flow more easily during bottling, but that is all.
When honey is raw, it has a much richer, nuanced flavor than processed honey does. Honey may vary in color and look cloudy as it crystallizes and solidifies. That is completely natural and fine – honey is a natural product, and it’s not going to be totally uniform every single time. The small variations are actually a benefit to you, because that’s how you know you’ve found an honest source.

Note: There is no federal standard for raw honey. We follow the simple principle that our honey should be as close to the way bees made it as possible. However, the state of Utah did pass a Raw Honey Amendment, defining raw honey. We applaud their effort and mirror and exceed their standard.

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Power Breakfast: Banana-Coconut-Oat Smoothie with Honey

Now that the weather is starting to warm-up, this is a delicious, filling and healthy breakfast for those early summer mornings:

Adapted from Martha Stewart


1/2 banana
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup ice


In a blender, combine banana, oats, yogurt, coconut oil, honey, orange juice, and ice. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a tall glass and drink immediately.

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Crystallization in Honey

Raw HoneyWe get this question a lot: Why does some of your honey crystallize more quickly than other honey, or more slowly than the last batch I bought from you? Why is this lot more liquid than the one I just picked up at the store?

It’s a very good question. We are constantly buying and harvesting honey throughout the year, and each load we bottle comes from different plants. The bloom-cycle of the flowers bees forage on changes all the time (most flowers bloom for two weeks or less), so the honey we bottle is essentially coming from different plants during the course of a year.

This means that each lot of honey will act differently than the last. The flower nectar bees make honey from is sugar-water. Each flower source has a different fructose to glucose ratio in its nectar, and depending on that ratio, the honey that is made from it will crystallize more or less quickly.

If the nectar has a low glucose ratio, the honey made from it will crystallize slowly. If it has a high glucose ratio, the honey can crystallize within days of harvesting- in fact, it can crystallize while still in the comb!

Raw Honey SquiggleSome people think that raw honey means the honey needs to be crystallized, but this is not true. Raw honey simply means that it has been extracted from the hive and then bottled- no filtering through fine-mesh filters to remove pollen, and no pasteurization of the honey (see the Raw Honey Amendment from the state of Utah). all our honey is warmed to a maximum temperature of 110 degrees F, if at all, and contains all the living enzymes and pollen grains the bees imparted to it. It is a natural product, and as such, we invite you to enjoy the subtle, delightful differences of each honey harvest.

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Understanding the Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder

This article was published in Minneapolis’ the Star Tribune and I think it’s important to read because it describes how neonicotinoids are being spread around the Midwest. Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticide that has been banned in the EU because scientists have linked it to colony collapse disorder. Here’s the article:

A pervasive agricultural insecticide that has been linked to the decline of honeybees is now a near-constant presence in the small and great rivers that flow through Midwestern farm country, according to the first major review of its kind.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey tracked the toxins called neonicotinoids in six states and nine Midwestern rivers, including the portion of the Mississippi that drains southern Minnesota, and found that they were universally present throughout the growing season in every watershed tested.

The results, published this week, raise significant questions about possible threats to the insects that form the base of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems, and they follow another study last month that found sharp declines in birds wherever the insecticides were widely used in Holland.

“If you get enough rain to transport it over land or into tile drains, then it gets into streams quite quickly at higher concentrations,” said Kathryn Kuivila, a scientist at the USGS Oregon Water Science Center in Portland, Ore., and a lead author of the study.

The concentrations found by the study are lower than those the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers fatal to aquatic insects, she said. But other scientists have found that the EPA’s estimates for toxicity may be too high.

“Even more importantly, these organisms are not exposed to just one neonicotinoid,” Kuivila said. “And there are other pesticides, other stressors.”

Neonicotinoids, a synthetic nicotine, are neurotoxins whose use has exploded since they were first introduced in the mid-1990s. They are now the most widely used insecticide in the world, having quickly replaced older classes of chemicals that were far more toxic to humans and mammals.

The manufacturers, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, say that neonicotinoids provide significant increases in yield for farmers and that there is no evidence that they are harmful to the environment. But recent studies have found that they may play a major role in the decline of honeybees, other pollinating insects and wildlife.

The compounds are most often used as a seed treatment for corn, soybeans and other cash crops, and — because they are water-soluble — they become part of the plant’s vascular system as it grows. But only a tiny portion of the toxin is absorbed into the plant, while the rest remains in the soil, where it can leach into ground and surface water.

The USGS study, however, is the first to measure how widely the toxins have spread through surface waters. The researchers took monthly measurements at eight sites from spring through fall in 2013. They looked at small watersheds such as the Little Sioux, which drains a tiny portion of southern Minnesota at the Iowa border, and the huge watersheds of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. At a ninth site, a tiny watershed in Iowa surrounded by agricultural fields, they took more frequent measurements to track how the pollutant levels changed during the season and with rain.

They found one or more of three different kinds of neonicotinoids in each of the 79 samples. The highest concentrations were found in smaller watersheds where farming was the dominant use of the landscape; lower concentrations were found in the big rivers that drained areas with more diverse uses.

“We are finding them throughout the season,” Kuivila said. “They tend to be more water-soluble than older insecticides.”

What is not clear, however, is what impact they have in aquatic ecosystems, she said. Levels considered toxic by the EPA are many times higher than those found in the USGS samples. But Kuivila said that other studies have found that toxicity can be much lower for some species, and others have found that the number of tiny worms and other soil insects drops precipitously at very low concentrations.

Here’s another great article by Josephine Marcotty of the Star Tribune called Bees at the Brink Battle for Our Hearts and Minds.

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The Beeman

It’s rare in popular culture to get bees right. So often, worker bees are portrayed as being male when in fact all bees we see foraging for nectar and pollen in our gardens are female. There are many misconceptions about how honey is made, and in truth, even scientists don’t exactly understand all the mysterious, complex and frankly wondrous things that happen inside a beehive. Bees are complex creatures which we are just starting to realize are very important to us.

So I was very excited when a friend gave my son a book about bees that is actually entomologically correct! The Beeman by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis is for small children, but everyone can learn from its beautifully illustrated pages. Published by Barefoot Books, it is described this way:

Told from the viewpoint of a child whose Grandpa is a beekeeper, this rhyming text offers an accessible and engaging introduction to the behavior of bees, including: where they live, how honey is made, and what a beekeeper does. Children will love learning about the vital role of bees in the ecosystem, and will be delighted to find a delicious muffin recipe on the final page!

We hope you have a chance to read it!

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Honey Arnold Palmer Cocktail

Arnold Palmer CocktailWe loved this recipe from the summer beverages section of the National Honey Board‘s monthly newsletter. A new twist on the classic lemonade and tea cooler, made with citrus gin and of course, honey!

  • 1.5 oz – citrus gin
  • 1.5 oz – lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz – honey syrup
  • 2 oz – unsweetened black tea
  • 1 – lemon wheel, for garnish


For honey syrup:

2 parts  honey
1 part HOT water
Combine ingredients. Stir until dissolved.

For drink preparation:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
2. Top with ice and shake vigorously.
3. Strain into an iced glass.
4. Garnish with lemon twist.

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Pollinator Week is Coming Up! June 16-22, 2014

Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator PartnershipPollinator-Partnership.

Seven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.  Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort.  The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture signs the proclamation every year.

Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed, and more. Therefore, Pollinator Week is a week to get the importance of pollinators’ message out to as many people as possible. It’s not too early to start thinking about an event at your school, garden, church, store, etc. Pollinators positively effect all our lives- let’s SAVE them and CELEBRATE them!

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Nation’s Biggest Honey Packer Admits ‘Laundering’ Honey

We weren’t too surprised to come across this article by NPR last week. Unfortunately, until the U.S. is willing to create a standard of identity for honey, and all honey must be sold with pollen in it in order to be called honey, then this will continue to occur. Currently, most honey on the market today is a highly-filtered and processed sugary syrup, without one grain of pollen in it. This legally passes as honey.

Why will pollen help curb this problem? Because pollen is the footprint of where the bees have been gathering their nectar. If you look at honey under a microscope, you can see tiny grains of pollen that are unique to the honey’s botanical source. So you’ll always know where it came from.

We say all honey that is purchased by U.S. consumers must have pollen in it- that’s how the bees made it!

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Getting Ready to Plant Bee-Friendly Habitats for Spring

As we move into spring, our friends, neighbors and customers are beginning to think about their gardens. Why not consider including bee-friendly plants this year? Our friends at Partners for Sustainable Pollination have some wonderful suggestions, as well as a map of farms all around the U.S that focus on bee-friendly crops and plants.

Consider this, excerpted from the PSP Webs site:

The mysterious phenomenon of all the adult honey bees flying away from the hive, called colony collapse disorder (CCD), thus far does not appear to have a single cause. Researchers believe that colony collapse disorder (CCD) is likely the culmination of an overwhelming number of long term stresses including resistant varroa mites, old wax combs with disease and pesticides, reduced forage and reduced diversity of forage, poor bee nutrition, a depressed honey market, and increased movement of bees around the country that can spread disease and pests. The one common factor found in hives lost to CCD is nutritional stress due to lack of access to natural forage.

The one proven action that can be taken to improve honey bee health is to improve access to high quality and safe forage. Natural forage and nutrition are essential to good honey bee health and to their ability to cope with pests, pathogens and other stressors. Improving forage for honey bees is a proven method of contributing to their health and sustainability. While smaller scale plantings for native bees are helpful, larger scale landscape plantings are needed to adequately meet the nutritional needs of managed honey bee colonies. Special consideration must be given to encouraging plantings of late summer and fall blooming plants to help hives survive through the winter to the next blooming season.

Beekeepers do not own sufficient lands to provide forage for their colonies. They must seek permission from willing landowners to access suitable and safe areas to “pasture” their bees. Historically, beekeepers have had access to bee forage after their bees finish pollinating crops. Over the decades, a combination of forces including urbanization and changes in agricultural practices, such as monoculture and agrochemical choices, has greatly decreased the acreage and sites available to beekeepers, creating a major bee pasture deficit.

Happy spring!

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Poland Bans GMO Corn Thought to be Linked to Colony Collapse

Last month, Poland became the first country to ban the use of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Corn strain, called MON810, which is linked to bee die-offs

Though no definitive link has been established between this strain of corn and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has devastated bee populations around the world, strong scientific evidence is backing the idea that bees are being adversely affected. The thinking goes like this: GMO corn has a pesticide built into it that makes it so farmers don’t have to apply topical pesticides to keep away bugs that would otherwise compete for their crops. The pesticide is intrinsic in the plant, so anytime one of the offending bugs takes a bite out of the corn, they get a lethal dose of the pesticide and die, protecting a farmer’s livelihood.

But the pesticide is also expressed in corn’s pollen, something bees will collect, feed on and store. The idea is that bees are getting a prolonged, continuous exposure to this pesticide through the corn pollen they ingest, and ultimately it becomes acute enough to kill an entire colony.

Bees, after all, are bugs.

Poland has made an important step in the fight against GMO foods. While definitive science is still lacking, the important point is that, like in any scientific evaluation of a problem, a hypothesis is presented and experiments are made to prove or disprove the theory, until all doubt is peeled away and the truth is arrived at.

We have a hunch that the Polish beekeepers’ hypothesis- that GMO corn has a negative effect on bees- is a pretty good one.

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