Recently, someone mentioned that honey from trees is much slower to granulate than honey from other sources. I had never heard this before and it intrigued me. I was fascinated because my own honey never granulates—at least I’ve never seen it granulate—and I have some that is over seven years old. I know my honey comes largely from tree nectar, but I never made the connection.
Honey granulates when the nectar is high in glucose and low in fructose. The more fructose the nectar contains, the less likely the honey is to granulate. I wondered if tree nectar naturally has more fructose. So I decided to informally research this claim to see how true it is.
What I found is kind of a mess. Nearly everyone agrees on the granulation rate of certain species. For example, many folks assert that honey from tupelo, black locust, gallberry, black sage, sourwood, avocado, and heather hardly ever granulates. This is true. On the other hand, honey from aster, clover, oilseed rape, alfalfa, cotton, blueberry, mangrove, and star thistle granulates quickly.
Most on the “never granulates” list are trees, and most on the “quick to granulate” list are not. But the gray areas are immense. I would say gallberry, black sage, and heather are shrubs—not exactly trees. But so are blueberry and cranberry. A mangrove can be a tree or a shrub. So although trees and shrubs seem to have many characteristics in common, nectar composition is not one of them.
Even more confusing: I found raspberry, cranberry, blackberry, sunflower, and fireweed on both “quick to granulate” and “slow to granulate” lists. The different experience by different people is probably the result of the nectar being mixed with other nectars in their local area—something which can give the honey very different characteristics. A pure sample would probably result in a different experience. For example, given it is in the aster family, I would imagine that pure sunflower honey would be very quick to granulate.
Others on the “slow to granulate” list were yellow box (bush), borage (herb), milkweed (herb) and grape (woody vine). On the “quick to granulate” list were orange blossom (tree), dandelion (herb), mesquite (shrub ), apple (tree), blue curl (evergreen herb), and rosemary (woody perennial). My own non-granulating honey comes mostly from maple, bitter cherry, cascara, American holly, salal, snowberry, and blackberry—which are trees, shrubs, and woody vines.
It’s hard to conclude much from this brief summary, but I would say that if your honey comes chiefly from trees you have a better chance of getting slow-to-granulate honey than if it comes mostly from annuals, herbaceous perennials, or vines. But once again, nature has proven she doesn’t believe in absolutes.
Interesting. Surprised to hear none of your honey granulates.
We did four harvests last year from hive #1 and three from hive #2 and marked the jars for each. Hive one, harvest one is all still liquid (what we have left). The others granulated at different rates by both hive and harvest. Fun to watch. The honey is stored in a cold cabinet. A real math problem to calculate the differences. Started hive two in April 2011, so did well to get what we did. Assume that hive one, harvest one was mostly from trees including big leaf maple, other maples, pussy willow and other, larger willow trees, some cedar and what not. Took the honey off before the fruit trees blossomed.
The only other thing blooming that early besides almonds is what we call scrambled egg flowers. They are yellow with a white center, low lying, appear herbaceous or fleshy serrated stem; like boggy ground. We have about a half-acre of them in total, scattered about. They bloom very early and the bees LOVE them.
We have been encouraging them.
We harvest often because the grand children love to “help”.
Thanks for a great blog.
It makes sense that early honey, which usually includes more tree flowers, would stay liquid while fall honey, which includes more perennial flowers in the aster family, would granulate quickly.
I have 40-year-old avocado honey that is granulated (or sugared if that is the same thing, I don’t know) and has been for 20 years or better.
Which is exactly why I say, “hardly ever granulates” or “almost never granulates.” There is always going to be someone out there pushing the envelope.
So tell me, Mark, what exactly are your plans for this 40-year-old honey?