For many people, honey is honey; they are completely unaware that there are distinct types available. Furthermore, most individuals have no idea that commercially, mass-produced honey tastes completely different to honey that is harvested straight from the hive. With that in mind, if you have ever heard of clover honey, you might be wondering what it is and how – or if – it differs from regular honey.
How is Clover Honey Made?
So, what is clover honey? As you might imagine, clover honey is honey that is made by honeybees that have collected the nectar from the flowers of the clover plant. At this point, it might be worth considering how honey is made to get an idea of what clover honey is.
Worker bees leave the hive to forage for nectar and pollen. Nectar is required for the process of honey making. In the case of clover honey, the worker bees will visit the clover plant and suck the nectar from the flower through their tubular mouth part (called a proboscis). The nectar is stored in the bees’ honey stomachs and taken back to the hive, where it is passed to waiting house bees.
House bees are also worker bees that stay in the hive. These bees will chew the nectar and then pass it from one bee to another until they have extracted some of the water and converted the nectar to honey. At this stage, the honey still contains too much water, so it is spread out across the honeycomb and the bees will flap their wings to increase airflow and in so doing help with water evaporation. Once up to about 80% of the water has been removed, the honey is moved to other cells in the honeycomb and is capped with beeswax to keep it fresh.
Is Clover Honey the Same as Regular Honey?
When most people talk about regular honey, they are talking about honey that has been mass produced and which can be bought in grocery stores or supermarkets. With clover being one of the most favored types of flowers for honeybees, clover honey is commonly found on supermarket or grocery store shelves.
However, there is a significant difference between raw honey and regular honey. Both can be varieties of clover honey, but one is taken straight from the hive for consumption while the other is commercially produced.
Raw honey is extracted from honeycomb and is usually strained over a nylon cloth by the beekeeper. This process ensures that the honey is separated from beeswax and any other impurities. The strained honey can then be eaten as-is.
Regular honey found in grocery stores is usually boiled, filtered, and will have various other sweeteners added to it. During the processing, the honey will typically lose most of its antioxidant properties.
What is the Healthiest Honey?
There is a common misconception that clover honey is automatically healthy, but it is important to realize that the healthiest honey is that which comes directly from the hive, without any additives and without having been processed. Whether or not it is clover honey does not determine how healthy it is.
Raw honey contains various antioxidants including phenolic acids, glucose oxidase, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid. These antioxidants are beneficial because they fight the free radicals that can damage cells and increase the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
As raw honey also contains antibacterial properties, it is great for soothing sore throats and for suppressing coughs. It is a common ingredient in cough syrups and throat lozenges. Many people will eat raw honey to help when they have a cough or cold.
Does Clover Honey Have Health Benefits?
If clover honey is raw and unprocessed, it has several health benefits, although not as many as darker honey varieties such as manuka honey. Raw clover honey might help to lower blood pressure as well as bad cholesterol levels.
Clover honey is particularly high in two antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory in nature and therefore could be beneficial to health. These are phenolic acid and flavanols. Flavanols promote better blood flow in the body and ensure efficient transportation of nutrients and oxygen through the blood to other parts of the body. By encouraging relaxed blood vessels, blood pressure can be lowered.
Phenolic acid has been found to help brain health and studies have found them to be protective against conditions such as epilepsy, depression, Huntingdon’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease when used in combination with other therapies.
What Does Clover Honey Taste Like?
If you have ever had commercially produced honey bought from a grocery store, chances are it was clover honey. In the United States, clover is the main floral source for honey production, more than any other plant.
Regular or commercial clover honey has a sweet taste with a mild flowery flavor. Raw clover honey is not as sweet as it has not had any additives (such as sweeteners) added to it.
Clover honey will have a light amber color when runny, or it will be whiter in color if it is set honey.
Does Clover Honey Go Bad?
Clover honey, like all other types of honey, has an indefinite shelf life. This effectively means it will never expire, provided it is stored correctly. In fact, jars of perfectly preserved honey dating back thousands of years have been found by archaeologists excavating tombs in Egypt.
The high sugar and low water content of honey are that which contribute to its exceptionally long shelf-life. Since it contains very little water while having a very high sugar content, bacteria cannot grow in honey and cause it to spoil. Another contributing factor is the pH content of honey, which is an average of 3.9, making it acidic. Acidic environments prevent the growth of various bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, C. diphtheriae, and Streptococcus.
In addition to all of this, bees themselves help with the preservation of the golden liquid they produce by secreting an enzyme known as glucose oxidase. This glucose oxidase is responsible for converting sugar into gluconic acid and producing hydrogen peroxide, which in turn inhibits the growth of various microorganisms.
With that being said, it is not impossible for clover honey, like any other variety of honey, to go bad. If honey is left in the open in a humid environment, it will eventually spoil. Likewise, if you allow your honey to be contaminated by water or other substances, it is likely that it will spoil.
It is important therefore that you keep your honey in a sealed jar, preferably a glass jar, and store it in a pantry or cupboard at room temperature. Although storing your honey in a refrigerator will not harm it in any way, it is not recommended to do so as the cooler temperature can lead to accelerated crystallization of the honey.
Why Does Clover Honey Crystallize?
Crystallization of honey is very common. In fact, it can occur more quickly with clover honey because it contains more glucose than fructose. When the glucose begins to separate from the water in the honey, tiny crystals begin to form. Because there is such a low water content in honey, the sugars will not remain in a dissolved state permanently.
Despite what many people believe though, crystallized honey is not bad and is still perfectly edible. Indeed, some people actually like the gritty texture of crystallized honey.
Raw honey tends to crystallize faster than commercial honey because of the extra particles of things such as beeswax, pollen, and other nutrients within it. Nevertheless, it is these other particles that makes raw honey healthier.
If you do not like crystallized honey, you can easily return it to its liquid form by gently heating the jar in a pan or pot of warm water or by placing the honey in the microwave on a low setting, stirring it during the heating process to help dissolve the crystals.
Clover honey is honey that is produced by bees that have collected nectar from the flowers of the clover plant. This is the most common type of honey produced by bees in the United States and it can be either commercially produced or be classed as raw honey, where it is taken straight from the hive, without any additives or preservatives.