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Cooking with honey

June 01, 1999

Honey!By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




So you're sweet on someone, and you want to cook something special.

How about a little honey for your honey? Or for anyone. Honey can be used in sauces and dressings. It's good in baked goods and desserts. And those busy little bees already have done a lot of the work.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Bees make honey to eat. It's their food. They produce enough to store in the hive through the winter when they can't make it because there are no flowers blooming, so there's no nectar to make the honey. They get a little bit overproductive, thank goodness, and produce enough for people, too.

In 1998, more than 200 million pounds of the golden goo were produced in the United States, according to National Honey Board.

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Gordon Davis, owner of Bee Tree Farms in Hagerstown, has been keeping bees for 41 years. There's no equation for how much honey a hive of 40,000 to 50,000 bees will produce, he says. It can range from one to 150 pounds.

"It's like an orchard," he says.

There are good years and years that are not so good.

In addition to making something delicious, bees perform a function that is vital to the world's food supply - pollination. Approximately one-third of the diet of humans comes from plants pollinated by insects, and about 80 percent of that pollination is done by bees, according to National Honey Board.

Honey has been around for a long time. It was used as a sweetener, as a tribute or payment and to treat cuts and burns in ancient Egypt. The Greek physician Hippocrates used honey-based cures for skin disorders and ulcers, and a mixture of honey and cod liver oil was used by German doctors to dress soldiers' wounds during World War I. Honey still is considered to have healing properties. It's "antimicrobial," inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Honey also is "hygroscopic," drawing water from the air to promote healing and prevent scarring, according to National Honey Board.

Honey comes in several forms:

* Liquid - Good for cooking and baking, this is the form of most honey produced in the U.S.

* Cream or spun - Also called sugared or whipped honey, this is crystallized honey that can be spread like butter.

* Comb honey - Is honey that comes in the bees' wax comb, the way it was made. The comb also is edible.

* Cut comb - Honey that is packaged with chunks of the comb.

Honey comes in several flavors, depending on the flowers from which the bees take the nectar. Gordon and Ruth Davis take their bees to a 250-acre orange grove in Florida in winter. In Hagerstown, their bees are making wildflower honey now, then later it will be locust, then tulip poplar, Gordon Davis says. Generally, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.

Do the bees sting Gordon Davis?

"If you play football, you get tackled," he answers.

But the goal, the sweet, sticky honey, is worth the momentary hurt.

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