Tag Archives: Honey

Soothing lemon honey ferment for scratchy throat season

I woke up Tuesday with a tickle in my throat and I opted to pretend it wasn’t there. I woke up Wednesday with that tickle still in my throat and I furled my brow and wished it went away. I woke up Thursday with that tickle turned into a scratching on my tonsils and I decided to pull out my lemon honey ferment and a hot cup of tea. And now, that tickle in my throat is feeling soothed as can be.

Sure, you can dip a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon into a hot cup of tea, gingerlemonhoneybut why not take it to the next level with a little microbial action? Especially when it is so easy to do.  It only takes two ingredients. You can add a third if you are daring.  Actually, it is not only lemon and ginger that get in on this fun honey action, but garlic is also a favorite. Check out this recipe by Killer Pickles for more about her Honeyed Garlic recipe.

Here are the in-depth and detailed (read: super easy) instructions to making your own honey-lemon (and ginger, if you are so inclined) at home.

  1. Buy a pint of raw honey.
  2. Thinly slice whole, preferably organic, lemons (2 works well for a pint of honey).
  3. Thinly slice ginger with the skin on, if you are using. (You can peel is, but there are a good number of yeasties on the surface of ginger).
  4. Layer the lemon, ginger and honey into a quart jar (this will expand, so better for a bigger jar).
  5. Shake, shake, shake it up.  Make sure you fully coat all the lemon and ginger in the jar.
  6. Wait. Shake. Wait. Shake. Do this twice a day for 5 days.  During those wait times, make sure the lid is not tightened to allow gases to escape. Don’t forget to re-tighten it to shake or you will be a sticky mess.
  7. At the end of 5 days, remove the lemon and ginger to a separate container. You can leave it in there indefinitely, but it will get more and more bitter from the pith.

Now, you have a deliciously infused honey and delicious honey coated and softened ginger and lemons.  Both should be stored in the refrigerator because they will continue to ferment at room temperature. If that honey keeps fermenting, soon you will have an alcoholic mead, which can be yummy and soothing in its own respect. But that wasn’t really the goal here, was it?

How does this work, you ask?  Well, honey inherently contains some great yeast microbes that allow it to ferment on its own. You can learn a bit more about it from the good people at Cultures for Health.  A pure honey or honey in the hive doesn’t ferment because bees are so super smart that they k
now to dehydrate honey to less than 18% water content to prevent fermentation.  As soon as you add the lemons and ginger, the water content gets high enough to allow the honey yeasts, the ginger yeasts and even the yeasts on the surface of the lemon to get to work.

What can you do with this? Well, you can eat both right from the jar because they img_20161027_145334are delicious. You can use the them to flavor hot or cold teas and drinks. For that scratchy throat, I opted for a delicious fall tea I received in my monthly Try the World box because they had a lovely fall flavors Apple Cinnamon Black Tea from IT by jugias. You can top ice cream with them or add them to an ice cream base. You can make a deliciously infused sauce for something like, say, pork chops.


I did a bit of digging to find out if there are any specific probiotic benefits to this concoction. While, yes, it is the microbial action of yeasts transforming the flavors and textures for the lemons, gingers and honey, it does not appear these yeasties have any particular health benefits other than providing you a bit of happiness from their amazing flavors!

Happy Cooking!

Follow the Money Honey. . .

This post originally appeared as a project post for Food History Project as fulfillment of and MLA in Gastronomy at Boston University.

“Can you hear that?” starts John Miller of Miller Honey Farms. He continues, “That’s the sound of money. . . fresh, printed money.”1 He stands amid rows and rows of trees in full bloom.  It is a dazzling sight with gentle rolling hills, a blue and cloudless sky and white-frosted trees as far as the eye can see. This is central California’s almond growing region.  As if it were a match designed by Cupid himself, sometime around Valentine’s Day, the almond trees of California bloom and the honey bees arrive to help the immobile blossoms copulate.  The orchard hums with the sound of Apis Mellifera, common honey bees, dancing between the trees. It is that hum whispering ‘cha-ching’ into Miller’s ears.  This particular tune is worth about $600,000 to Miller.2 He is a migratory beekeeper.

The almond orchards and honey bees are an unlikely match in the heart of California’s central agricultural valley. Indeed, neither almonds nor honey bees are native to California, much less the Americas.  This is a story of two seemingly star-crossed lovers, the Lavant almond seed and Eurasian honey bee.3 A migration across continents and oceans that took centuries is what made almonds and bees one of the most powerful agricultural duos in California and, ultimately, the world.

For several decades, the Almond Board of California (ABC) has embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to make the almond king of the nuts and, perhaps as an unintended consequence, the honey bee its queen.  In the 1960s ABC seized on market conditions to catapult the California almond industry to the world’s top producer and most sought after nut (technically, it is a seed).4  With prices on the rise and Italian almond production in decline, California’s land usage for almonds quickly went from 100,000 acres to 800,000 acres.5 In a similar timeframe, the demand for migratory beekeepers went from about 250,000 colonies to nearly 1.5 million colonies.6  It is worthy to note that in 2009, the honey industry value was $208 million while fees paid to migratory beekeepers exceeded $350 million.7

almond blossom bee
Honey bee landing on an almond blossom (free image download from stockfreeimages.com)

Migratory beekeeping is the practice of periodically moving bee hives to locations where more pollen and nectar are available for bee foraging.  This is not a novel practice invented for the benefit of almonds.  An Egyptian papyrus from 250 B.C. shows the earliest indication of migratory beekeeping.8 At this time, the value of honey bee pollination was yet to be discovered.  The honey bee was instead revered for its stored foodstuff and, what was then the only known sweetener, honey.9 Ancient beekeepers aimed to maximize honey production.  Migrating bees was a sort of transhumance, the practice of seasonally moving livestock to new pasture to improve food availability.  Bee transhumance or migratory beekeeping allowed beekeepers to extend and increase honey production.

The honey bee remained in Middle East, the Mediterranean and tropical Asia until the 1600s when humans spread them to northern Europe and Asia.10  It arrived in Virginia by boat in 1622, but did not make its journey, also by boat, to California until the 1850.11  This honey bee expansion period was for honey production. The role insects played in pollination was still not yet understood.  Initially, beekeepers paid farmers to bring bees to their crops with the goal of feeding the bees to produce honey.12  At the turn of the century, fruit producers realized that self-sterile fruit trees required insects for cross-pollination and bee hives were introduced for pollinating coffee.13 By the 1940s, the tables turned with farmers paying migratory beekeepers for pollination services.14  According to one estimate, in 1992 migratory beekeepers improved annual crop yields in the U.S. by up to $5.7 billion.15

The almonds rise to dominance is not as well-documented as the honey bees.  Wild almonds, also known as bitter almonds, originated in the mountains of the Lavant.16 During ancient eras, one might imagine wild honey bees pollinating wild almond flowers in the Lavant.   Archaeological evidence suggests almond were collected as early as Neolithic times.17  Rather than cultivate the poisonous bitter almond, early humans selected seeds with a single genetic mutation that made them sweet and edible seeds.18  Through the middle ages almond cultivation spread from the Lavant throughout Europe. The spread of almond cultivation was slow until the early 20th century when cross-pollination methods were better understood and utilized.19 As it turned out, a key to cross pollination is a healthy and abundant pollinating insect population.

Almonds did not arrive in California until the 1850s.20 At first, they did not thrive in the climate until four specific varieties – Nonpariel, IXL, Ne Plus Ultra and La Prima – were selected in the late 19thcentury.21  California’s almond industry was built on these varieties.  They not only fared well in the climate, but also, and more importantly, they cross-pollinated with each other to give consistent quality yields.22 California’s almond production remained pretty steady until the 1950s when several new advancements help boost crop yields.  Mechanical harvesters are generally credited as the breakthrough technology that lead to increased crop yields.23 However, it does not seem coincidental that pollination services by migratory beekeepers were also becoming a valuable industry at this same time.

2013 Almond Almanac
Cover of the 2013 Almond Almanac from the Almond Board of California (ABC)

Today,  California is the only U.S. producer of almonds generating 82% of the world’s supply of almonds.24 In 2013, more than 30 billion honey bees worked to pollinate 90 million almond trees spanning across 800,000 acres of prime California agriculture land.25 That crop acreage is second only to hay and ahead of grapes in California.26  The bees work provided about 700 billion individual almonds weighing in at somewhere around 1.85 billion pounds.27  That is more than twice the weight of all other nuts produced in the U.S. combined.28 In dollars and cents, almonds led the value of California specialty products at $3.4 billion.29  It takes more than 1600 migratory beekeepers to make all this happen.30  However, the next breakthrough for almond growers may prove detrimental to the migratory beekeeper industry.   A recently developed self-pollinating almond may render their services obsolete.31

The annual honey bee migration to California around Valentine’s Day is the largest in the world.  The honey bee and the almond are interesting bedfellows locked in a complicated co-dependency for survival.  Without the honey bees, California’s almond industry might collapse. Without the almond, a large number of the 30 billion honey bees needed for pollination would become unemployed.  If new self-pollinating almonds become the new industry standard, perhaps the world will find a new appreciation for the honey of 30 billion unemployed bee workers.

  1. More than Honey, Netflix Streaming, directed by Markus Imhoof, Switzerland, Swiss Films, 2012.
  2. More than Honey.
  3. Jabr, Ferris, “The Mind-Boggling Math of Migratory Beekeeping,” Scientific American, 309:3 (August 20, 2013), accessed 13-April-2014. www.scientificamerican.com/article/migratory-beekeeping-mind-boggling-math/
  4. Micke, Warren, Almond Production Manual, (Oakland: University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 1996), 1.
  5. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 2.  “Almond Production,” Inventory of Almond  Research, Germplasm and Research, accessed on 14-April-2014www.fao.org/docrep/X5337E/x5337e02.htm.
  6. Jabr, “The Mind-Boggling Math.” Rucker, Randal, et al, “Honey Bee Pollination Markets and the Internalization of Reciprocal Benefits,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics,94:4 (March 24, 2012), 965
  7. Rucker, “Honey Bee Pollination Markets,” 957
  8. Crane, Ethel Eva, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting(New York: Routledge, 1999), Kindle Edition location 10144/23690.
  9. vanEngelsdorp, Dennis and Meixner Marina Doris, “A historical review of managed honey bee populations in Europe and the United States and the factors that may affect them,”Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 209 (2010), S80.
  10.  Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 10318/23690.
  11. Oertel, Everett, “History of Beekeeping in the United States,” in Beekeeping in the United States Agriculture Handbook Number 335, USDA (October 1980), 2-3. Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 10355/23690.
  12. Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 13719/23690.
  13. Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 13703/23690.
  14. Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 13719/23690.
  15. Crane, The World History of Beekeeping, Kindle Edition location 13740/23690.
  16. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1.  Zohary, Daniel and Hopf, Maria, Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Cultivated Plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 148.
  17. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1.  Zohary, Domestication of Plants in the Old World, 148.
  18. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1. Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 118. Zohary, Domestication of Plants, 147.
  19. Geisseler, Daniel and Horwath, William R., “Almond Production in California,” Assessment of Plant Fertility and Fertilizer Requirements for Agricultural Crops in California, January 2014, accessed 13-April-2014. apps.cdfa.ca.gov/frep/docs/Almond_Production_CA.pdf.
  20. Geisseler, “Almond Production in California.” Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1.
  21. Geisseler, “Almond Production in California.” Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1.
  22. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 1.
  23. Micke, Almond Production Manual, 2.
  24. “2013 Almond Almanac,” Document #2013IR0136, Almond Board of California, (2014), 113, accessed 13-April-2014.www.almondboard.com/AboutTheAlmondBoard/Documents/2013%20Almanac%20-%20Final.pdf
  25. Jabr, “The Mind-Boggling Math.”
  26. “2013 Almond Almanac,” 13.
  27. Jabr, “The Mind-Boggling Math.”
  28. “2013 Almond Almanac,” 23.
  29. “2013 Almond Almanac,” 14.
  30. Jabr, “The Mind-Boggling Math.”
  31. Flores, Alfredo, “ARS Scientists Develop Self-Pollinating Almond Trees,” Agriculture Research, 58:4 (April 2010), 14