Frozen blueberries, blueberry pie, blueberry jam, blueberry syrup…there are a number of ways to enjoy the slightly-sweet, slightly-tart taste of blueberries when their short season is over. And those may be the only way to enjoy them if you live in an area of the country where stores charge way too much for these often-underrated fruits.
Eating real blueberry honey – if you can find it – is not the best way to savor the flavor of fresh blueberries, even though it does have a slight blueberry tang that lingers in your mouth afterward. But blueberry honey is one of the best full-flavored varieties you can buy, both for your taste buds and your health.
Here’s what to expect, if you have this delicious nectar on your honey wish list.
Why It Can Be Difficult to Find Blueberry Honey
There are a number of honeys produced in relatively small regions of America (or other nations). Blueberry honey is one of them, because the plants require cooler, temperate climates to flourish. Most blueberry plants whose nectar is used for honey are grown in New England (Maine blueberry honey is most popular) and central Michigan, and neither of those areas is in the “mainstream” of American transportation or commerce. In other words, California honeys are more likely to be widely distributed than those from Maine or Michigan.
Even so, some blueberry honey does manage to make its way south, although when sold in southern states the varietal is more likely to have come from a secondary production state like New Jersey, North Carolina or Oregon. Those in the most areas of the Midwest, Southwest or Far West are more likely to find this honey online than in their local natural foods store or farmer’s market.
It takes a good amount of work to produce blueberry honey, which is another reason the yield is low and the honey is rather difficult to find. Every bud produces up to 16 small white flowers and their pollen is sticky and heavy; that means the plants aren’t self-pollinating and the wind can’t help very much.
Native bees certainly assist in the task, and many believe they’re better pollinators than honeybees when it comes to blueberries. But robust production also requires migratory beekeeping, with hives placed in the middle of blueberry fields during the spring period when plants are blooming, so honeybees can perform the necessary pollination.
Beekeepers place as many as five hives per acre of blueberry bushes, but they don’t normally find as much product in the honeycombs as might be expected. One study discovered that honeybees only collect 15% as much blueberry pollen as they do from other plants. (1)
These factors combine to limit blueberry honey quantity, and make it more of a regional than national variety. It’s still worth finding, though.
Qualities of Blueberry Honey
If you find a jar of blueberry honey, are captivated by its deep blue color, and are amazed by its vibrant blueberry taste – you’ve been fooled. What you actually bought was “blueberry-flavored honey,” a varietal like wildflower or orange blossom honey that’s been mixed with blueberry extract.
True blueberry blossom honey has a color that can range from light to dark amber, with a smooth, thick texture and a warm, pleasing aroma. The taste is earthy and a bit tangy with a bold and somewhat fruity flavor, but this honey is full-flavored, not overpowering. There’s a buttery finish with a hint of blueberry aftertaste; perhaps not what you expected when you tried this honey, but delicious nonetheless.
You’ll find that raw blueberry honey crystallizes fairly quickly, not only because of its sucrose content but due to the high number of large pollen grains it contains. Placing the jar of honey into a warm water bath will bring it back to its more-liquid natural texture, but either way, it’s a very spreadable honey.
Using Blueberry Honey in the Kitchen
Its spreadable texture makes blueberry honey ideal for use on any type of biscuit or bread, particularly whole-grain varieties. The bold flavor of this honey makes for dynamic pairings with goat cheese or mild-to-strong blue cheeses, it’s terrific when mixed with granola or Greek yogurt, and it will add zing to ice cream or fresh fruits like watermelon.
Blueberry honey is also a great varietal to mix into an olive oil vinaigrette salad dressing, or to blend with fruit and lemon juice to make flavored lemonades or smoothies. (It matches extremely well with cranberry.) You can also cook and bake with this honey, of course; it’s a perfect ingredient for honey blueberry muffins, but can be used in virtually any recipe calling for a full-bodied variety of honey.
The natural sweetness of blueberry honey makes it a good substitute for sugar as a sweetener in tea, and adds a new, more powerful dimension to herbal or fruit teas.
The high carbohydrate and calorie content of this honey mean it shouldn’t be used to excess, but it does have several important health benefits. We’ll examine those next.
Health Benefits of Blueberry Honey
Several studies examining the beneficial antioxidants contained in raw honey varietals have found that only buckwheat honey is on a par with blueberry honey. The researchers found that blueberry honey is particularly good at fighting some of the most powerful and problematic bacteria, like E.Coli and MRSA. (2)(3)
That anti-bacterial power is due in part to the hydrogen peroxide that most types of honey slowly release inside the body, but also due to the high number of antioxidants in blueberry honey. The antioxidants, naturally, also help fight the damage that free radicals can do to the body while helping to prevent the illnesses they cause. They help in battling everyday issues like colds and the flu as well.
The honey’s high concentration of polyphenols and flavonoids also give it strong anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming blueberry honey may help the body battle chronic diseases, while also aiding in the treatment of more common problems like sore throats and gastrointestinal ailments.
However, these benefits are only present in raw blueberry honey, since the pollen and propolis (bee glue) responsible for honey’s health benefits are removed when honey is highly-processed with ultra-filtration and pasteurization. Because blueberry honey isn’t widely distributed, though, over-processing isn’t usually a concern; most blueberry honey is sold in its raw, unfiltered form because it doesn’t have to “look good” for display on grocery store shelves.