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Monday, May 7, 2012

Almond Honey, Mount Airy, MD (The Bee Folks)

I got this honey online from The Bee Folks ( out of Mount Airy, MD. I've blogged about honey I've bought from them before (see Radish honey). They have a great website and sell LOTS of different kinds of honey (as well as other things related to honey and bees). It is a family affair that started in 1997 with two hives in their backyard and has now grown to 2 acres and a small business. If you are looking for quality honey that you may not be able to easily find elsewhere, I'd recommend them (I've never seen (American) bamboo, or meadowfoam honey anywhere else). Almond honey, not surprisingly, comes from almond tree flowers. According to Wiki, almond trees are part of the Prunus family- the same as peaches, plums and cherries but rather than have a fleshy fruit it has a a seed coat (the hull) containing the edible kernel (what we think of as the almond nut). Being part of the Prunus family the almond is not truly a nut at all, but a 'drupe', along with peaches, plums and cherries. A drupe is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (the pit) of hardened endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside; although for the almond you have to use your imagination a little for the fleshy fruit bit as mentioned above. So now you can impress you friends and family by using 'drupe' in a sentence ("Can't wait for the hot days of summer when drupes are at their peak ripeness.").
But back to almonds. There are two general types of almonds- sweet and bitter. Conveniently, sweet almonds often have white flowers and bitter almonds have pink flowers. What differs between sweet and bitter almonds is the amount of fixed oil and emulsion, and the presence of a ferment emulsion. Sweet almonds have a lot of fixed oil and emulsion and little/no ferment emulsion. The ferment emulsion of bitter almonds interacts with water and produces bensaldehyde (making the almond bitter) as well as cyanide (in the form of prussic acid, a.k.a. hydrogen cyanide) and other things. Extract of bitter almond, not surprisingly, can be deadly in large doses.
The almond tree is thought to be have originated in north Africa or southwest Asia, but since it has been cultivated in so many places for so long, its origins are obscure. Nowadays if you eat an almond, chances are it was grown in California. The Almond Board of California claims that 80% of the world's supply is grown in the state's central valley. They have a great website with all sorts of information (and recipes) about almonds: According to their site, Californian almond trees bloom in late February and early March and given the scale of the production, this must be truly a wonderful sight to see. Apparently almond trees are not self pollinating so bees are brought in for the job and they have a fairly narrow window of time to get the job done. The pollination of the California almond crop is touted as the largest annual managed pollination event in the world. According to Wiki, close to a million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the US) are trucked in to the almond groves, and this is all organized by pollination brokers who contract with migratory beekeepers. Being such an important crop for California they take all things almond very seriously, and track all things almond in the "Almond Almanac"- which is available as a pdf on the Almond Board's website. Cultivation of almonds goes way back. They were used in wedding ceremonies by the Romans in 100 AD (and are still used in France as wedding treats (dragees, or sugar coated almonds) to symbolize the bitter sweetness of life, and travelers on the silk road in 600 AD packed them for food along the way.
The almond honey I have (which was harvested in California) is a warm brown/orange/red color. I've had mine for a little bit so it has crystallized in large chunks. It has a mellow, slightly nutty flavor that becomes more pronounced, and then becomes a little bit like molasses and a little bit like caramel in the aftertaste. I can see why this honey might be a good choice for baking, especially if nuts are in the recipe. I think it would also be good in hot cereal or on hot buttered toast.


  1. Neat. At the very least you inspired/reminded me to finally order some stuff from the Bee Folks. :-)


  2. I've only tried radish and almond honey from the Bee Folk (both good), but look forward to trying other kinds- meadowfoam looks intriguing!