September is National Honey Month! So I know it’s the tail end of the month but plenty of time to enjoy a little local honey with the family! This past summer, we toured Red Bee Honey in Weston, CT and spoke with local beekeeper Marina about her bees and honey in particular. The whole family enjoyed a lovely time of honey-tasting in the honey house! I couldn’t leave without buying her honey tasting kit to do this honey tasting activity with the kids at home!
A honey-tasting activity with kids
Did you know, honey is the only raw, unprocessed sweetener found in nature? Yes! True! Agave is processed, and even maple syrup is processed. But honey, you can find wild, truly in the raw!
Another cool fact about honey is that it’s the only sweetener with flavor. Focus on that word: Flavor! Other sweeteners are just… sweet. But honey comes in hundreds of flavor varietals, the palate sensations are nearly endless: floral, fruity, earthy, and so many more adjectives, it makes my English-teacher heart pitter-patter!
Marina wisely said to me, “When you teach kids to taste good food, they learn what good food is, and then they can start making good choices about their food.” So wise. Isn’t that key – we want our kids to make good self-directed food choices. And how can they do that unless they have tasted the “good stuff,” right?
Doing a honey-tasting activity with kids helps them see that honey isn’t just honey. Oh no! Honey is a flavor adventure! Moms of picky eaters… you can use honey to find just the right flavor sensation that will tempt that little palate! Then drizzle it on yogurt, bananas, peanut butter and more!
Oh, Taste and See!
Psalms 34:8 says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” Wasn’t He good to give us so many delicious flavors of a food as yummy as honey!?
Now… when it comes to tasting honey… I’m not talking about the generic honeybear you might find on the shelf in a supermarket. Check your labels, because… that might not even be good honey. I learned from Marina, that sometimes, brands mix decent honey with cotton honey (honey from the cotton flower), which has zero flavor, but is cheaper. So… if you’re thinking “honey is just honey,” maybe it’s time to put the bear down and head out to your local honeybee operation!
I’m also not saying all store honey is bad, just that it pays to know your food source and farmer (or, beekeeper in this situation). Even if it’s imported, you can still do some research on the honey you’re getting.
Okay that said, Marina at Red Bee actually took all the work out of our honey-tasting experience, because she sells a honey tasting kit in her honey house store! The kit contains four jars of different flavor honeys (in adorable hexagon shaped glass jars, just like a honey hive!). She selected four honeys that are dramatically different in flavor, so there’d be a definitely distinction for your tastebuds.
Included in the kit are some flavor charts she designed herself! Oh, I forgot to tell you – Marina is the only American trained as a honey expert by the American Honey Tasting Society! So she’s one-of-a-kind that way! She runs tasting classes from time to time in her honey house. But with her tasting kit, you get a little bit of the experience at home!
Our at-home honey-tasting experience with the kids
I set out the four honeys on a tray and provided the kids a jar of popsicle sticks. Since you want to avoid contamination, the sticks allowed us to get a little dollop of honey before grabbing a fresh stick. You could probably wash the sticks later and reuse for a project too.
First, we looked at the color chart on the back of the honey flavor wheel. The boys had no problem deciding what color each honey lined up with (the lids had a lot of honey in them, which made for a nice look at the color).
Then we each grabbed a popsicle stick and took a taste of the first jar. Usually, tasters would look at their flavor wheel and find a word that best describes the taste, moving towards the outer edge of the wheel to get more refined descriptors. Since my boys are six and four, I looked at the chart and gave them two or three word choices from the center of the wheel. They were pretty accurate telling me whether a flavor was floral, fruity, or woodsy.
It is so cute to hear a four year old tell you his honey is “kinda woodsy!” I just love when little tikes use elevated language – and it is so good for their developing brains!
Anyway. We went down the line tasting and using our descriptive words. Which makes me think what a fun Language Arts activity this would be when learning adjectives! But I digress…
And now I’ll tell you the flavors we tried: Bamboo, Buckwheat, Blueberry, Goldenrod. Each honey has a distinctive flavor note that you can pick out (and the flavor wheel helps if you can’t put your finger on the best word choice).
Of course, the boys loved tasting honey, but I think they also liked the idea of naming the flavors with the fun new word choices I presented them with.
Extending the honey-tasting for my kids
I plan to have the boys do another honey tasting experience in a few months, and give them additional words to pick from. I think as my oldest grows in his reading, this activity will hold additional meaning for him.
Another extension I will make (now and in the future) is asking them to describe other foods that tasted like the flavor of the honeys. Or just ask they are eating something pungent, to ask if they can describe the flavor. Getting kids to think about flavors and their subtleties is an important part of educating them about good, real food.
Stay tuned, Monday I’ll be telling you more about Red Bee Honey and honey in general. And then Tuesday I’ll have a whole line up of amazing honey products you should check out!
Here’s a natural cold / cough remedy using honey! Honey Onion Cough Syrup
Happy Honey Month! Bee Sweet!