Sweet and gooey raw honey is not all the same -it’s incredible how the pollination source drastically influences honey’s color, taste, and texture. Honey sommeliers say that buckwheat honey is something you either love or hate! If you’re a honey devotee that enjoys experimenting with various honey varieties, be sure to add this unique honey to your upcoming tasting list.
Buckwheat honey is a monofloral honey product produced by honeybees harvesting and converting buckwheat flowers’ nectar into honey. Buckwheat honey is rich, dark honey with an earthy malty aroma and toasted toffee, molasses flavor. It is also full of antioxidants and antibacterial activity.
It’s impossible to understand honey connoisseurs’ rave and genuine authenticity of buckwheat honey until you personally try a spoonful. However, until then, we’ll try and give the best full scoop version of buckwheat honey, including its origin, taste, appearance, and benefits.
What Is Buckwheat Honey?
Buckwheat honey is rich, dark malty monofloral honey (made almost entirely from one flower type). This nutrient-dense honey is produced by honeybees harvesting and converting the nectar of buckwheat flowers, a tiny white flower not in the wheat family but rather related to rhubarb.
Buckwheat honey isn’t as sweet as traditional, store-bought honey. However, its health properties make up for the lack of sweetness. It is highly nutritious and jampacked with antioxidants and vitamins.
Where Does Buckwheat Honey Come From?
Like wine, buckwheat honey comes from various regions and can take on slightly different terroirs -the unique flavor imparted by all the environmental factors within a region.
Within the United States, buckwheat honey is most commonly produced in states like Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The buckwheat plant, Fagopyrum esculentum, was historically grown in the highest acreage in Pennsylvania and New York; however, it has shifted to the north-central states like Minnesota.
Outside of the United States, buckwheat honey is often produced in Canada, France, Latvia, Poland, and Siberia.
Buckwheat is a beneficial cover crop that makes phosphorus available, adds nitrogen to the soil, and discourages weed growth. Therefore, organic farmers often use buckwheat when seeking an alternative herbicide and subsequent phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers. In addition, buckwheat has the additional benefit of being productive during the late season, allowing farmers to utilize it as a double-crop.
Farmers and beekeepers often work together at this time by setting a load of hives near the crops. The farmers benefit from the bees pollinating their buckwheat, increasing the harvestable seed yield. In addition, the buckwheat crops supply a steady pollen and nectar source in the late summer to frost, yielding a high buckwheat honey production.
How Is Buckwheat Honey Made?
The predominant source of buckwheat honey is made from raising buckwheat plants for their seed harvest. In addition, the farmers typically invite beekeepers to position hives near their buckwheat crop to aid in pollination. As a result, buckwheat honey is a delicious, nutrient-dense byproduct of this process.
Buckwheat honey starts as flower nectar collected by honeybees, which the bees’ enzymes break down into simple sugars and store inside the honeycomb. Then, the enzymes, unique honeycomb design, and constant fanning of the bees’ wings cause evaporation, converting the nectar into sweet liquid gold capped with a waxy layer.
Raw, unheated buckwheat honey can undergo filtering to remove the larger elements like dead bees, pollen, propolis, beeswax, or small honeycomb chunks that can upset the texture of the honey.
What Does Buckwheat Honey Taste Like?
As we mentioned earlier, you will either love or hate the rich, distinct flavor profile of buckwheat honey.
Pure buckwheat typically honey tastes like molasses or black treacle. Overall, buckwheat honey has a subdued sweetness compared to other honey varieties. However, its primary characteristics lie in its dense, toasted toffee, butterscotch-like, or molasses flavor profile and slightly bitter, deep cigar smoke, musty, and malty notes that leave a tickling sensation in one’s throat.
The taste of buckwheat honey also varies depending on the particular buckwheat subspecies used for pollination and the terroirs (the flavors imparted due to the environmental factors within a particular region) that can influence the plant’s ability to produce weak or strong nectar that the bees make into honey.
Buckwheat honey has an earthy, spicy, and astringent aroma of vintage oak.
Is Buckwheat Honey Dark Or Light?
Buckwheat honey ranges in color from medium brown to almost black. However, it generally appears amber-colored with a reddish tint.
It is said that the darker the buckwheat honey, the higher the pure buckwheat content the honey contains. In fact, pure buckwheat honey is the darkest honey on the market.
Buckwheat honey gets its rich, dark color from polyphenols and its rich mineral contents. Dark honey can contain up to 0.2 percent minerals compared to 0.04 of its pale counterpart.
You can compare buckwheat honey to coffee roasts. The darker roasts taste more bitter and nutty, quite like buckwheat honey. In contrast, light roasts and honey are less intense and sweeter.
Is Buckwheat Honey Healthy?
Raw honey traditions and remedies date far back to the 1st century in the Baltic region. Lithuania and Latvia’s people saw beekeepers as great elders or mystical individuals who were able to retrieve the best natural remedy for healing. The Baltic culture went as far as sacrificing their raw and pure honey to Bullbias, the god of bees and honey.
Bee products, including raw honey, beeswax, and propolis, have many antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.
Much evidence shows that the darker the raw honey, the healthier it is. So, you may wonder how beneficial buckwheat honey really is.
Buckwheat honey’s primary benefits are promoting healing in the body, supporting immune function, and boosting antioxidants. However, this gooey syrup is also excellent for soothing sore throats and treating coughs.
Buckwheat Honey Benefits
Here is a deep dive into the superpowers of buckwheat honey:
- Boosting antioxidants: A study placed high-quality, raw buckwheat honey as the most antioxidant-active among other honey. Buckwheat honey significantly boosts powerful, fast-acting antioxidants in your body, including phenolic compounds like flavonoids and organic acids. Drinking buckwheat honey with black tea increases the level and bioavailability of antioxidants in the body significantly, making them readily available to relieve oxidative stresses in the gut, liver, and organs that aid in food digestion.
- Cardiac disease: The antioxidants in buckwheat honey help defend your cells from damage caused by free radicals. So, a diet rich in antioxidants can reduce the risk of arterial hypertension and heart disease.
- Specific cancer prevention: Buckwheat honey can help minimize free radicals and reverse some DNA mutations causing sickness and cancer.
- Reducing cholesterol: Buckwheat honey helps reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, which helps promote a healthy heart and lower high blood pressure.
- Wound care: Using buckwheat honey helps treat wounds by drawing moisture out which helps eliminate bacteria. In addition, buckwheat honey’s natural sugar and low pH can help prevent bacteria and other microbes from infecting and multiplying in the wound. You can use this honey to treat cuts, skin irritations, burns, and scarring. Honey was a mainstay item in field hospitals and infirmaries before discovering penicillin. The antibacterial properties of honey aid in detoxification and ward off harmful bacteria in the liver.
- Skincare: Honey can help protect your skin while keeping it smooth and supple. Dark honey, like buckwheat honey, is recommended for acne and other skin-related issues due to its antibacterial properties and detoxification. As a result, there are thousands of leading honey-infused skincare products. In cosmetic formulations, buckwheat honey exerts moisturizing, soothing, and conditioning effects while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and regulating the skin’s natural pH balance.
- Soothing cough: A study found that buckwheat honey is a more effective treatment for nighttime coughs in children from respiratory infections than over-the-counter cough medicine.
- Iron supplement: Buckwheat honey has the highest iron content of all honey types. Therefore, buckwheat honey is a superfood that helps replenish strength for people with active lifestyles. In addition, buckwheat honey boosts blood formation and helps treat anemia. Therefore, vegetarians can use it as a food supplement for iron.
- Buckwheat honey is safe for people with diabetes: Buckwheat honey is safe for people with diabetes in moderation. In addition, honey has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce diabetes complications.
Note: These benefits are solely based on raw buckwheat honey. Filtered or processed honey breaks down the enzymes and antioxidants from heat exposure and cannot provide similar healing properties.
How To Use Buckwheat Honey On Wounds?
The ancient elixir serves as an excellent modern-day remedy for wound healing, especially as everyday antibiotics become less able to handle the infections.
You can apply the raw buckwheat honey directly to the wound with a sterilized cotton tip or gauze and cover it with a clean, dry bandage.
How To Treat A Cough Using Buckwheat Honey?
A spoonful of rich, yummy buckwheat honey or a honey mixture and warm herbal tea can treat cough or sore throat. However, be aware that you should avoid giving buckwheat honey to infants under one year old. While adults are generally immune to small amounts of bacteria honey can contain, babies aren’t immune to these harmful bacteria.
How Long Does Buckwheat Honey Stay Fresh?
If sealed and stored correctly, raw honey can last decades, even centuries; natural raw honey does not expire.
Have you heard of the unearthed honey jars in ancient Egyptian tombs, being still as good to enjoy as the day they were sealed? Is these stories proof that honey simply doesn’t go rancid, ever?
Well, honey contains several unique properties in its biological makeup that aid in its magical longevity, including:
- A high sugar and low moisture content
- An acidic nature
- Antimicrobial enzymes
Buckwheat Honey Has A High Sugar And Low Moisture Content
Buckwheat honey has a high sugar content which aids in inhibiting the growth of microbes like bacteria and fungi. In addition, the high sugar levels also mean that the osmotic pressure in the honey is very high, causing water to flow out of the microbe’s cells, stopping their growth and reproduction.
The water content and activity are also low, so the microorganisms cannot use the water, and no fermentation or breakdown of honey can occur.
Buckwheat Honey Is Acidic
Buckwheat honey has a low pH of around 4. Its acidic pH is primarily from gluconic acid produced during nectar ripening. The acidic environment hinders the growth of certain harmful bacteria, making it helpful in preventing bacterial growth on wounds and ulcers.
Buckwheat Honey Has Antimicrobial Enzymes
Bees secrete glucose oxidase during honey production. The glucose oxidase helps preserve the honey by converting sugar into gluconic acid while producing hydrogen peroxide; a compound thought to contribute to the antibacterial properties of honey.
Can Buckwheat Honey Go Bad?
Despite buckwheat honey’s exceptional antimicrobial properties, it can turn rancid under certain circumstances. These include:
- Contamination: Buckwheat honey can include bacteria, yeast, and molds from pollen, dust, air, dirt, and flowers. However, the honey’s antimicrobial properties prevent the microbes from multiplying.
- Adulteration: Adding cheap sweeteners to maximize volume and reduce costs of buckwheat honey.
- Incorrect storage: If you do not seal your honey correctly, the water content can rise above the average of 18%, increasing the fermentation risk. The microbes in the environment can contaminate the honey once the water content increases.
- Degradation over time: Heating the buckwheat honey at high temperatures can negatively affect the color, flavor, and aroma of the honey. However, it’s normal for honey to crystallize over time, even when correctly stored.
Does Buckwheat Honey Crystallize?
Buckwheat honey is dense honey that crystallizes slowly. Honey with a higher glucose level than fructose crystallizes much faster. However, buckwheat honey has higher fructose than glucose levels, preventing it from crystallizing too quickly.
Honey crystallization is a natural process, and it does not mean your buckwheat honey has gone rancid. Honey is a supersaturated sugar consisting of water and a sugar mixture, mainly fructose and glucose. Over time, these sugars start to “precipitate” from the solution, meaning that the water and glucose separate, causing the glucose to form crystals.
While crystallized honey generally becomes grainy, whiter, lighter, and opaque, it does not alter the flavors. Instead, it proves that buckwheat honey is natural and unpasteurized.
Crystallization is expected in real honey as it contains natural sugars and pollen.
Place your buckwheat honey in a bowl of warm water or pop it into the microwave to dissipate the grainy, crystal formations if you don’t enjoy the texture of crystallized honey.
How To Store Buckwheat Honey Correctly?
Crystallization occurs much faster at low temperatures. So, when the temperature drops below 50°F, it will accelerate the crystallization process.
To ensure your honey lasts a lifetime, that’s if you don’t gobble it all up, of course, consider the following storage tips to store your buckwheat honey correctly:
- Store the honey in an airtight container. Consider storing the honey in a glass jar instead of plastic. Plastic containers are more porous and can’t wick away moisture as well as glass can.
- Keep your honey in a cool, dry area between 50 to 70°F. While you can store honey in the refrigerator, it’s prone to crystallize faster.
- Avoid contaminating your honey with dirty utensils that can allow bacterial, yeasts, and fungal growth.
- Prevent overheating the honey while warming it once crystals form. Overheating will degrade the color and flavor.
Buckwheat Honey Pairings
Using your buckwheat honey depends on whether you plan to use it for medicinal purposes or for the pure joy the unique flavor profile brings to your tastebuds.
Focusing on the latter, buckwheat honey offers rich and bold flavors that pair best with opposite and contrasting profiles to allow a balanced nuance paring. Therefore, consider pairing your buckwheat honey with rich, fresh styles, including creamy ricotta, fresh goat cheese, or soft-ripened bloomy cheese styles like brie and camembert. These delicate yet bright and fresh flavors best suit buckwheat honey.
The rich, butterscotch, slightly bitter flavor makes buckwheat honey a mouth-watering substitute for maple syrup over pancakes and crepes or a yummy addition to your hot toddy.
You can also drizzle a bit of buckwheat honey over your morning grits to add a nutty sweetness without the mountain-full of brown sugar. This unique and versatile honey is equally delicious in Greek yogurt, ice cream, and scones.
Lastly, buckwheat honey is the critical ingredient used to make gingerbread (spice-bread) originating in Brittany, France. Brittany also produces Chouchen, a style of mead (honey wine) made from buckwheat honey and cider. This dark and rich honey is also popular with American mead brewers who like the robust flavor and slightly nutty bitter aftertaste.
Raw Buckwheat Honey vs. Regular Processed Honey
Buckwheat honey is commonly sold in its raw, unfiltered form. Therefore, it remains a potent superfood containing bee pollen, propolis, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial enzymes otherwise destroyed by pasteurization or removed by fine filtering. In comparison, regular, processed honey undergoes various filtering, heating, and pasteurization processes that remove most of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.
Buckwheat honey is primarily dark with a rich, distinct flavor profile similar to molasses (black treacle). Regular, processed honey contains a homogenized version boiled down to supply a consistent sweet taste, color, and viscosity. Unfortunately, processed honey also tends to lack the crucial nutritional properties of raw honey.
Who Should Avoid Buckwheat Honey?
Avoid consuming buckwheat honey if you have allergies related to either honey or buckwheat seeds.
You can develop an allergy to buckwheat honey from a pollen allergy. Pollen accidentally makes its way into the honey while bees collect nectar. Your system can go into overdrive and react exaggeratedly to the harmless pollen, hence the allergic reaction.
You can have an allergic reaction to buckwheat honey because your body might be more sensitive to the enzyme secretions produced by bees while making the honey. However, you’ll generally experience an allergic reaction to all honey varieties.
Furthermore, avoid giving buckwheat honey (including all kinds of raw honey) to a child under a year old. The raw, unfiltered honey can cause Infant Botulism, a rare but severe disease caused by a specific bacterium. In addition, when children are over a year old, they tend to have a more robust immune system, reducing the risk of eating raw honey.
Is Buckwheat Honey Vegan-Friendly?
The issue regarding whether buckwheat honey and other honey varieties are vegan is not black and white.
The Vegan Society firmly believes that honey is not vegan, stating “honey is made by bees for bees.” Furthermore, the Vegan Society’s definition of true veganism seeks to exclude cruelty and exploitation, and the health of honeybees can be sacrificed when humans harvest the honey.
Many commercial bee farmers employ practices regarded as unethical by strict vegan standards. These practices include clipping the queen bees’ wings to prevent them from fleeing the hive and replacing the harvested honey with sugar syrups lacking the needed nutrition. Therefore, strict vegans take a stand against these exploitative practices by steering clear of using honey and other bee-related products, like honeycombs, bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.
On the whiter side of the spectrum, some beekeepers strive for “natural beekeeping” by only removing the excess honey while leaving the hive undisturbed. Natural beekeeping leaves the bees unharmed and prevents exploitation, making it understandable why some self-proclaimed vegans are comfortable purchasing local raw honey.
So, honey remains a controversial food among vegans, primarily boiling down to the individual’s perspective. However, vegans can replace buckwheat honey with numerous plant-based sweeteners like maple syrup or blackstrap molasses.
If you enjoy bold, robust, and distinctive flavors, buckwheat honey might be your perfect fit. Its dark tones and robust taste signify its high antioxidants and healing properties, while the flavor profile allows you to indulge in dense, rich butterscotch-like liquid gold.
If you have a cough or sore throat, it’s an excellent reason to eat buckwheat honey by the spoonful! Otherwise, enjoy buckwheat honey over pancakes, crepes, light cheese, or in your hot toddy.