How Honey is Made
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A Taste of Honey with Marie Simmons

It was such a treat to attend Marie Simmon’s class and honey tasting at the Ranch during Culinary Week 2013.  I love honey and I find it fascinating how honey bees can make something so delicious and useful.  It’s amazing how the flavors and scents of the flowers and plants come through in the honey.  Even though I’ve loved honey for as long as I can remember, I realized during Marie’s class that I had no idea how it was actually made.

Converting nectar into honey is a multistep process. The complex anatomy of the honey bee accomplishes this task. Here Marie explains the process of making honey and why it’s so universally loved:

  • Honey is made by honey bees from the nectar of flower blossoms.
  • Nectar is mostly water with some sugars, and the honey bee extracts a complex sugar called sucrose.
  • Honey bee saliva contains enzymes that break the sucrose into two simple sugars: fructose and glucose.
  • The sugars along with water in the nectar are stored in a special “honey tummy or stomach” and are transported back to the hive.
  • In the hive thousands of honey bees get to work.  They repeatedly regurgitate the sugars (or nectar) drop by drop and store it in hexagonal wax combs they have carefully constructed.
  • Once deposited in the combs the bees evaporate the excess water from the honey by continuously fanning their wings.  That’s the buzzing sound you hear.
  • Besides its obvious sweet taste and culinary versatility, just the word ‘honey’ evokes a sweet (and sticky) note of nostalgia!
  • Honey conjures up memories of hearth and home: of honey slathered toast, the adorable plastic honey bear with the colorful pointed hat, the sound,  sight and buzzing of bees sucking nectar from blossoms.
  • Whether you’re of the “millennial” generation or a well seasoned baby boomer, honey connects the earth, farmer and soil to our kitchens and our tables.

Marie Simmons is an award-winning cookbook author, recognized food writer, talented cooking teacher and lively storyteller. Marie is the former senior food editor at Cuisine magazine and test kitchen editor at Woman’s Day magazine.