The value of your honey will be determined largely by its quality, so it’s important that a beekeeper understands what factors can affect the quality of the honey and how you can keep its value as high as possible.
While the honey is still in the hive the bees will do pretty much all the work of keeping it in top condition. However honey left in the hive for an extended period will darken over time. As well as this, as the bees move on to gather nectar from the next plants to come into flower and the flavors of the honey will blended.
The color of the honey doesn’t affect its quality but it does affect the consumer perception of its value. Generally customers prefer honey that is lighter in color, which increases its value.
Honey connoisseurs appreciate the individual floral notes of honey predominately produced from single plant varieties. Harvesting between the nectar flows of different local plants will produce gourmet honey varieties of higher value.
While you want to capitalize on individual floral honey as much as possible, it’s also important not to harvest too soon. Honey harvest too soon contains too much water and will be at risk of spoiling.
Honey is considered to be ready for harvesting and at its best quality when the bees cap the honey cells. The water content is one of the main factors affecting honey quality. Honey is what is known as a hygroscopic material which means that it will absorb water from the atmosphere
To keep the quality of the honey high, keep the water content low. To do this time the harvest when the weather and the general atmosphere is as dry as possible. Also keep the time between harvest, processing and packing to a minimum.
Extracting, processing and packaging the honey, either in airtight bulk containers or the final sealed consumer packaging, as soon as possible after harvesting is another factor in keeping the water content low and maintaining the quality of the final product.
Honey is usually heated to make extraction and filtering easier as well as to extend its shelf life. Most commercial honey outlets prefer honey that has been heat-treated. Raw honey contains natural yeasts which can become active and ferment the honey if the water content gets too high.
Over heating is the other main factor in loss of honey quality. When the honey is over heated the sugars begin to break down and it darkens reducing its value. Heat also destroys the more volatile flavors which give the honey it’s unique floral notes, again decreasing its value.
Getting the best value from the honey is a balance between keeping the honey in top condition, while maintaining its individual floral characteristics and keeping qualities. Remember if you want to be able to get the best price for your honey you need to maintain it’s quality. Harvest it at the right time, keep you honey’s water content low and don’t over heat it, then your customers will be happy to pay a premium price for a premium honey.
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