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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gunter's Buckwheat Honey, Berryville, VA

What exactly is buckwheat? A quick look at wiki tells me that buckwheat is, in fact, not related to wheat at all (not being a cereal or grass) but related to sorrels, knotweed and rhubarb (I have no idea what knotweed is). According to Wiki, buckwheat plants grow quickly, beginning to produce seeds in about 6 weeks which ripen in 10-11 weeks. Given its short growing season it is sometimes used as a second crop or where the growing season is short. Not surprisingly, it was one of the first crops introduced by Europeans to North America and was an important crop until around 1960 when the use of fertilizers became commonplace. Apparently too much fertilizer reduces buckwheat yields and after fertilizers became popular there was a sharp decline in buckwheat production.


The buckwheat flowers produce seeds (a single seed inside a hard outer hull) that can be ground into flour or used like wheat. We've been cultivating buckwheat for a long time, starting around 6000 BC in southeast Asia.


Buckwheat is used in a lot of different foods. Perhaps you've had a traditional French gallette - a crepe made with sarrasin, or buckwheat flour? It is a specialty of Brittany.


In addition buckwheat noodles are eaten in Tibet and Japan (Soba), and buckwheat groats can be boiled and made into a porridge. More recently buckwheat has been used as a substitute for other grains to make gluten-free beer, and as a filler in pillows and upholstery as an alternative to feathers.

But back to my buckwheat honey. It is produced and packed in Berryville, Virginia (on Bee Line Lane) which is located in the upper Shenandoah Valley. It is a small town with about 3000 people that was established in 1798. Gunter honey is a private company owned by Gregory Gunter and established in 1989. They don't seem to have a website but a search online suggests that they produce a variety of honeys including clover, orange, alfalfa, wildflower, blueberry, eucalyptus, avocado, star thistle and buckwheat.


Buckwheat honey is very dark and smells a bit malty, like molasses. It is also thick, not as thick as molasses, but has that texture to it. It has a sweet clear taste that is true from beginning to end, sort of a lighter version of molasses with some honey taste thrown in an undertone of a malty/woody taste. Very smooth. I think it would be good in a strong black tea, on hot cereal (buckwheat groats perhaps?) or on hardy bread.

Of interest, a study showed that buckwheat honey was an effective cough syrup:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdFlu/story?id=3947988&page=1#.T3dotNVTX4Q

You can buy Gunter's buckwheat honey online (just google it and you'll see lots of people sell it) or you can contact the Gunter Honey folks directly:

100 Bee Line Ln
Berryville, VA 22611
(540) 955-1734

8 comments:

  1. Oh, that looks wonderful. I'll have to check that out soon.

    I love following your blog it gives me nice ideas for what honeys to check out next!

    Michael

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  2. I'll glad you like the blog! Glad to know there are other honey-philes out there :)

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  3. I just bought a jar of Gunter's Honey and I need to know if it's natural to the point that it contains pollen and NO corn syrup. My guess is that it's a family run operation, and therefore pure. I want to keep buying Gunter's honey. Especially after reading this: http://action.sumofus.org/s/honey-fake-walgreens/?action_id=9005341&akid=.1537113.xN0qNR&ar=1&form_name=act&rd=1&sub=taf

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  4. @ Rivergull, Gunter's Honey is a family run business and is 100% honey (I'll stake my reputation on it)- no syrup additives.

    In the US honey is not as regulated as in other countries so you may get a honey that doesn't completely come from the flower source that you think it does- or, as the article you refer to, from mostly something else like corn syrup(!) For instance, in France, if it says it is orange honey, by definition 80% of the flower source (and pollen with in) must come from orange blossoms (and if it says it is honey, it is honey). In the US honey producers don't have this strict oversight. Nevertheless, if hives are surrounded by large crops (e.g. almond trees in blossom) then you can be confident that the honey labelled "almond honey" is from almond blossoms. The same is probably true for buckwheat. In addition, buckwheat honey is like no other in color and taste- so it would be hard to water it down and get away with it. In my opinion Gunter's buckwheat honey is very good quality honey, and honey through and through.

    I think the biggest danger of getting "watered down" honey is buying commercially produced honey or honey that is just marketed as "honey" -without any reference to the flower source, where it was collected, etc. You often find this kind of honey in large supermarkets or chains. This honey (mostly clover I think)isn't that much different from corn syrup in color and flavor so it is easy to water it down without anyone noticing too much.

    If you stick to local or small producers and/or get a honey that specifies the flower source you can be confident you are getting what you think you are getting. Some supermarkets or chains carry this type of honey (I've found good quality honey at Wholefoods, an upscale supermarket in my area, for instance and believe it or not, TJMaxx often has some great honey from far away places).

    Or, if you buy honey at farmer's markets, smaller shops that get it locally, or from countries that regulate it (France, New Zealand, come to mind), then you can also be pretty sure that you are getting the real McCoy.

    I hope you enjoy Gunter's buckwheat honey. The taste is unique and not for everyone, but you can rest assured that you have real honey :)

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  5. Raw buckwheat honey was recommended to me. Is Gunter's buckwheat honey raw?

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  6. John- as I understand it there is no official definition of what "raw" honey is, but generally it means it is not filtered or heated. Producers filter honey to take out pollen and debris so that it is clear (and more appealing) and doesn't crystallize as quickly. Heating honey also delays the crystallization process. The label of my Gunter's honey doesn't give any clue if it is unfiltered or unheated so I did a bit of research. According to the website http://www.honeyflowfarm.com/Honey-and-Beekeeping-Articles/raw-or-unprocessed-honey.html if a label doesn't state that the honey is raw it has most likely been heated. Most raw honeys crystallize in a matter of weeks so large producers (I include Gunter's in this mix) are likely to heat their honey to keep it liquid longer (which makes it more appealing to consumers).

    Your best bet for getting raw honey is to go to local farmer's markets and buy from small producers (and ask them how they process their honey) or buy online from a producer who states that their honey is raw. Just google raw honey and you'll likely find quite a few. I've bought honey online from The Bee Folks in MD (http://www.beefolks.com/default.asp). They have a nice selection of honeys (some unusual) and all are raw- but I see they don't produce Buckwheat.

    I see that Dr. Vita sells raw buckwheat honey (http://www.drvita.com) for a pretty good price, with free shipping. I've never bought from this site, though, so I can't recommend it personally.

    If you find a raw buckwheat honey that you like- please write again to let me know!



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  7. I'd like to know if the buckwheat is grown without pesticides?

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  8. Tammy- I have no clue as to whether the buckwheat is grown without pesticides. It would be best to contact Gunter's directly to ask: Gunter's Honey, 100 Bee Line Ln,Berryville, VA 22611 (540) 955-1734

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