Anyone living in generally-colder climates knows that eating fresh berries is one of the true joys of summer. And even in somewhat warmer areas, some types of berries flourish throughout the growing season.
Berry pies, berry crumble, berry jam, berry ice cream, even straight-from-the-bush berries mixed into yogurt or dropped into a bowl of cereal – any way you eat berries, they’re a delicious taste of the summer season.
But when that season is over there are only three ways to get your berry fix. You can eat frozen berries or foods made from them; you can pay extremely high prices for berries shipped long distances to supermarkets during the off-season; or you can dig into a jar that tastes just like summer.
What’s in the jar? Blackberry honey.
Why blackberry, and not raspberry or strawberry honey? Honey bees aren’t that fond of strawberry plants, so you’re unlikely to find raw strawberry honey even if you visit a farmer’s market or health food store; if you do see “strawberry honey,” it’s probably honey that’s been mixed with strawberry puree. You can find raspberry honey, but it’s produced in just a few states (and countries like Portugal) and in relatively small amounts, since the flowering season for raspberries is only about 25-30 days.
Blackberry honey, though, is more widely available – and it’s absolutely yummy. If you’ve never tasted what many call America’s most popular “gourmet” honey, you should definitely put it on your wishlist.
The Story of Blackberry Honey
Wild blackberry bushes grow in temperate and northern states, as well as in much of Europe. (Blackberries can grow in the south as well, but the yield is low and the berries are usually quite small.) The fruit is also cultivated by beekeepers and farmers, primarily on the west coast and more specifically in the Pacific Northwest; most blackberry honey sold in America comes from either Oregon or Washington State. It’s also widely produced in France.
Honeybees gather nectar from wild blackberry plants in the mid-to-late spring, bringing it back to the hive where worker bees turn it into raw honey and cover it with beeswax in their honeycomb. There it is either used by the colony as food, or beekeeping or processing companies harvest it and prepare it to be sent to market.
Many varieties of honey are heavily processed, in order to make it more attractive to consumers and last longer before crystallization. Thankfully, most wild blackberry honey producers don’t resort to techniques like ultra-filtration (which removes the bee pollen that contributes most of the honey’s health benefits) or adding extra sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup (to add bulk and increase yield). The blackberry honey they produce and ship is pure honey – raw, unadulterated, healthy and delicious.
You may see this honey labeled as blackberry blossom honey or bramble honey. Those are not different or related products; they’re exactly the same, since the nectar for blackberry honey is harvested from blackberry blossoms, and “bramble” simply means that the nectar and honey come from wild blackberry bushes rather than cultivated ones.
The Taste of Blackberry Honey
The best way to describe the taste of blackberry honey, for those who’ve tried other varietals, is that it’s much like orange blossom honey but with a light berry taste instead of a citrus-y one. Its unique taste isn’t quite the same as you’d experience when biting into a juicy, ripe blackberry, but it’s closer than you might think: crisp and sweet, with a slight berry tang.
If you glanced at an unlabeled jar of blackberry honey, you might mistake it for buckwheat or similar varieties: it’s usually dark-to-medium amber in color, with a thick and viscous appearance and a smooth texture. It has a slight and flowery aroma to complement its normally-mild taste, but the characteristics of the honey can vary from producer to producer. You will also find that some blackberry honeys have a stronger flavor, and they are perfect for use in BBQ sauces, marinades and glazes.
Blackberry honey can be used in a number of ways, but it may the best honey to serve at breakfast because its sweetness blends so well with waffles, pancakes and English muffins, and is a perfect choice for sweetening tea. The honey works very well as a sweetener in recipes for baked goods, and many people blend it with lemon juice and water to make a sweet blackberry lemonade.
This honey has a relatively-high fructose content, meaning it is slower to crystallize than many other varieties of natural honey, particularly if it’s kept in a dry place at room temperature. If it does form crystals while on your shelf, simply place the jar in a warm water bath (never use hot water), and it will return to its lovely liquid form.
The Health Benefits of Blackberry Honey
Like many honey varieties, blackberry honey is quite high in the antioxidants (like vitamin C) that work to prevent damage in the body from free radicals. That, plus blackberry honey’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, makes it a smart addition to any diet, as free radicals have been blamed for illnesses ranging from heart disease, stroke and many cancers, to respiratory problems, arthritis and other inflammatory issues. The honey also contains a number of other beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, plus iron, calcium and manganese (albeit in somewhat small amounts), and this honey is a good source of fiber.
Blackberry honey is said by many naturopaths to be an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments. They recommend it for common everyday issues like sore throats, laryngitis and colds, high blood pressure and anemia, stress, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea. Some even suggest that blackberry honey can help with menstrual disorders. None of these treatments have been scientifically proven, but it is known that many varieties of honey help with that wide range of medical issues, as do the B vitamins contained in blackberry honey.