The bees only fly and make honey when the sun shines and so Ireland isn't always able to produce enough honey to meet the demand all year around. Irish honey is generally harvested in late summer and so this is the best time to stock up as if the summer was not great, it will sell out quickly!
We have a Pure Irish Honey from around the South Kilkenny, South Tipperary area. We do not blend any of our Irish honey and it is clearly marked Pure Irish Honey. Our other honeys are sourced from other countries to provide a variation in honeys so we have lovely honeys like Lavender Honey , Orange Blossom Honey, Acacia Honey, Manuka Honey. We use only the best quality honeys and have been working with our suppliers for years. All our honeys are pure, real honeys with nothing else added, regardless of the country it comes from.
Not at all, crystallisation is a natural process and will happen all natural honeys at some stage. How quickly it crystallises depends on the flower the bees have fed on and also the temperature at which the honey is stored at. The temperature in a hive is generally 20 - 24 degrees and so honey doesn't like to be stored in the fridge or anywhere too cold. A honey like Acacia will stay clear for very long but for example, sunflower honey, will crystallise very quickly.
Not at all, honey is a bit like wine. The flavour is dependent on the flower, the weather and the country it comes from. Even honey from Ireland will vary in colour and taste depending if the bees are near heather or oil seed rape or apple trees for example. In very general terms, a light colour will have a light flavour and the same for dark coloured honeys. Try a few of them to see which one you prefer. Also, some are nicer for breakfast while others are great in cooking.
It is true that you can't control where the bees fly and so in order to be certified organic the regulation states that the bees must be on a certain area of organically farmed land or wild land that hasn't been sprayed, with no other pollution hazards like public roads or industries. There is no certified organic honey in Ireland for this reason as we don't have huge plains of organic land needed. Brazil and Mexico are some of the top producers of organic honey. Some people believe that organic honey is better for the bees as they don't have to feed on flowers that may have been sprayed with pesticides like neonicotinoids.
As honey varies in colour and taste, some honey is blended to guarantee a similar taste and colour all year round. As long as you buy your honey from a reputable supplier, this shouldn't taint the quality of the honey.
All parts of the honeycomb are edible, so just spread it on your toast as normal! If you are trying it for the first time, Cut Comb honey may be a good option as it is a section of the honeycomb suspended in runny honey and so you get the best of both worlds!.
Like all animals, bees are subject to illness, and this has always been the case. It can be managed and treatments have proven to be successful. However, the recent surge in bees dying is due to what has been named 'Colony Collapse Disorder'. There are a number of studies as to what is causing this, some believe it is the intensive requirements of bees to pollinate the same crop over and over again, some believe it is due to a pesticide sprayed on the flowers the bees feed on and other reports believe it is a mite. It will take some more time before the exact answer is found.
What can we do to help?
Choosing honey that is not the cheapest is a good start, like all food production, lowering the price has a negative knock on effect down the line and all control as to the environment and flowers the bees are in is lost. It takes bees 55,000 miles and 2 million flowers to make 454g of honey, so for this reason, it shouldn't be too cheap.
Organic honey is also another good option as it rules out the pesticide issue. Also planting bee friendly flowers in your garden, hanging basket or window box will all help keep them strong.
Manuka honey can only come from one tree in one country. It is produced when the bees feed on the Leptospernum tree in New Zealand.The Leptospernum is a cousin of the Tea Tree which is also renowned for its medical properties.
Manuka honey is "thixotropic" in its nature, that is, it is extremely thick, nearly jelly and should not be runny honey. All honey contains some level of antibacterial properties, these have been found to be stronger and more "cooperative" in Manuka honey. The different numbers relate to the strength of these antibacterial properties.
Some Manuka honeys are blended with other honeys, Mileeven Manuka honey is 100% pure Manuka honey. We don't blend it or mix it with anything, we simply clear out the wax etc. and fill it into jars for you.
Set honey is just a variation on the consistency. There is nothing else added to it to make it set. Some honeys have a thicker consistency naturally - like sunflower or rape seed honey.