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The Buzz About Honey

 

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On Rosh Hashanah, Jews around the world gather together to pray for renewal and a sweet new year. We celebrate with the ancient custom of dipping an apple in honey, drizzling honey over challah bread and infuse honey into many traditional dishes. Although biblical honey was a thick paste of ripened dates, the honey we enjoy on Rosh Hashanah reaffirms our eternal connection to Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey. Honey is also unique because it is the only product of a non-kosher animal which is itself kosher.

During this busy time of year, it is hard to imagine anyone working harder than the Jewish home cook, but the National Honey Board claims that approximately 60,000 bees in a beehive may collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey… And I thought a third trip to the kosher market in less than a week was impressive!

So how is honey made? Bees gather nectar from a flower, store it in a special storage area located in their stomach and bring it to the hive where it mixes with other proteins and enzymes to create honey. The honey is placed into a unique hexagonal comb and sealed in wax for safety and sanitary storage.

The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the flower blossoms).  In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, deriving from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor. Most honey (close your ears, honey bear) is actually blended honey; it is mixed to create a consistent color and taste.

Honey is well known for its antioxidant, antibiotic and antiviral capabilities. It has been used in homeopathic remedies for centuries to treat skin cuts and burns, coughs and the everyday cold. Honey is touted as a digestive aid, a natural throat soother, a beauty ingredient/moisturizer, an energy booster (think pre-industrial Red Bull) and a treatment for environmental allergies. Consumption of local raw (unpasteurized) honey, which contains traces of pollen, is believed to boost the immune system.

Most people rely on a honey as a throat soother when they are sick by adding it to tea or by the spoonful. A new study by a Penn State College of Medicine research team, found that honey may offer parents an effective and safe alternative to over-the-counter cough medicine. The study found that a small dose of buckwheat honey, given before bedtime, provided better relief of nighttime cough and sleep difficulty in children than no treatment or dextromethorphan (DM), a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cold medications.

Providing 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is an all-natural sweetener and a suitable alternative to sugar in many recipes. Although honey has more calories than sugar, because it is sweeter you can generally use less honey and still benefit from its antioxidants. Now is the perfect time to find your inner Pooh Bear and enjoy a sweet new year with honey.

For delicious honey recipe ideas, visit http://joyofkosher.com

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About Tamar Genger MA, RD

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Tamar lives in New York and is the mother of three amazing children, a Registered Dietitian, professor of Nutrition, and as you can probably guess, a foodie! Tamar loves to travel with her family and visits kosher restaurants wherever she goes. Although she loves the sights, she spends more time talking about the restaurants and food she ate! As a mom and a nutritionist, Tamar tries to balance her passion for healthy cooking with her insatiable desire for chocolate!

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