Spring is in the air and with it has arrived a surge of colorful flowers—and the bees that pollinate them. The first thing that may come to mind (besides admiration of this gorgeous season)? Honey!
Used for everything from sweetening tea to soothing wounds, honey is one of nature’s greatest gems. And yet, with over 300 different kinds of honey in the U.S. alone, selecting the type that’s best for you may be dizzying.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide on the most popular types of honey varieties around:
1. Acacia honey
Sourced from the nectar of the black locust tree—which is native to Europe and North America—acacia honey ought to be the go-to sweet stuff for those who like a little tang. Also found as “locust honey” in the U.S., acacia honey tends to be on the pricier side, not only because it takes longer than most honeys to crystallize but also because of its high levels of flavonoids—phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and have immune-supporting powers. Acacia honey is also rich in beta-carotene, which has been associated with everything from clearer skin to brain health.†
2. Buckwheat Honey
Buckwheat pancakes with buckwheat honey? Oh yes—at least when you consider buckwheat honey’s high nutritional content. Drawn from the nectar of buckwheat flowers—a common honey crop with pink-antlered blossoms—this honey is as much a delight to the eyes as it is to the taste buds: Ranging in color from dark purple to black to reddish-amber, it’s revered for not being as sweet as its cousins (and yet much more intense).
One of the key ingredients in traditional gingerbread—and a leading choice for cooking poultry and beef—it has slightly bitter notes and a flavor that calls to mind molasses and malt. It’s also a gift for when your little one has a cold: A 2007 study reveals that buckwheat honey was helpful for soothing nighttime coughs in children.†
3. Clover Honey
Often spot clover honey at the store? It’s no wonder: Clover—a robust and ubiquitous plant that’s preferred by honeybees—contributes more to U.S. honey production than any other plant. With a floral flavor and a pleasant taste, it’s not only tapped to enrich desserts, coffee, and teas, but it’s also a boon for your health: In a study comparing the antibacterial qualities of 16 different types of honey, clover scored the highest. It also brims with antioxidants—compounds that can shield you from free radical damage.
4. Orange Blossom Honey
Looking for a way to freshen up your yogurt, toast, cheese plate or even carrots? Turn to orange blossom honey. Generally derived from orange groves in Central Florida, this variety stays true to its name, containing honey’s sweet taste with a bright undertone of citrus. This, combined with its fresh scent, makes it nearly addictive, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you think of the health potential it holds.
According to a study in “Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry,” orange blossom honey brims with flavonoids, including quercetin, galangin, luteolin and naringenin, all of which may naturally encourage protection from health threats and environmental stressors. Its mineral content is just as impressive, as it contains handsome amounts of zinc, magnesium and selenium.
5. Manuka Honey
Waltz into almost any natural foods store and you’re bound to be enticed by jars of Manuka honey. Native to New Zealand, this exotically-titled honey has risen to fame for reasons that go beyond its creamy texture and earthy taste: CNN reports that Manuka honey is one of two honeys (the other would be Malaysian Tualang honey) with digestive health benefits. Meanwhile, in 2007, the FDA approved Manuka honey as an option for wounds. Studies have also demonstrated that Manuka honey attacks negative oral bacteria associated with tooth decay and gum inflammation.†
If you’re new to this superstar, do know that it differs from other honeys in terms of texture: It isn’t liquid at room temperature but, rather, has a thick consistency made up of fine crystals.
6. Tupelo Honey
Van Morrison sang about it in his 1971 hit, and Peter Fonda’s character produced it in an award-winning, 1997 film. Tupelo honey—as rich in taste as the legend it carries—has long been considered one of the finest honeys in the world. Part of this comes down to its rarity: 100% pure Tupelo honey is only produced by the White Tupelo tree, large strands of which grow exclusively in two teeny regions in the Southeastern United States.
Those who do get their hands on this unique honey are often hooked by its fruity taste, golden-greenish hue and cinnamon scent. What’s more, it may be healthier than most honeys: As one of the few honeys that doesn’t crystallize right away, and the only honey diabetics can eat, it has a high ratio of fructose sugar, which fends of typical sugar crashes and may provide longer bouts of energy.
Is anyone else tempted to brew a pot of tea?
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.