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How sweet it is
Locally-made honey will not only add natural sugar to your meals, it can make you feel better, too
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Honey comes in a variety of colors based on the nectar source, according to bee keeper Virginia Webb. Lighter honeys are better for table honey, and darker honeys are better for baking because they hold their flavor.

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Bee keeper Virginia Webb talks about colony collapse disorder in Georgia.

When you taste honey, you are tasting the soul of a flower.

At least that's how Virginia Webb, a bee keeper in Clarkesville and owner of Mountain Honey, thinks about it.

The golden, sweet nectar that comes out of the hive is perfect on a biscuit or a piece of toast, but honey can be used in all sorts of ways in the kitchen.

Webb suggests her peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich or honey carrots.

"Take two pieces of bread, put peanut butter on one side, honey on the other side, slice bananas really thin and put in the middle and then grill it like a grilled cheese sandwich," she said. "Another one is honey carrots; I take those little baby carrots (1 pound bag) and I rinse them off very well and I put them in a microwave container. I drain off the water after they have cooked for about four minutes, I add one teaspoon of butter and two tablespoons of honey and mix it in and serve."

Webb added that different varieties of honey can be used in different ways in baking.

"Georgia is one of those unique states where we have a true wonderful selection of honey throughout the state," she said.

In South Georgia, she said, there's gallberry honey. Around Savannah it's Tupelo, another premium honey. In Middle Georgia there's the light-flavored cotton honey, often used in baking, and tulip poplar honey, which is a dark red, bold variety that's also good for baking.

In North Georgia the most popular honey is the sourwood variety.

"Sourwood is our premium honey," said Webb, who won Best Honey (sourwood) in the World at the World Honey Show in Dublin, Ireland, in 2007. "It's light in color and flavor and it has a lot of flower flavor to it. It's a great honey to mix with oatmeal.

"I like it with cheese; I actually take chunks of the honeycomb and put on cream cheese or Brie cheese and that's really good. It's a great honey to have with tea."

The award-winning sourwood honey that is produced in Clarkesville will be featured in August's edition of Food and Wine magazine. Virginia and her husband Carl won the magazine's award for best artisanal sourwood honey.

The sourwood honey can only be found in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, according to Bob Binnie, owner of the Blue Ridge Honey Co. and president of the Georgia State Beekeepers Association.

"Sourwood is a local specialty ... it has a delicate and unique flavor," he said.

Along with different flavors, honey does come in different colors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture even put the colors of honey into seven categories: water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber, according to the American Honey Producers Association.

"Never judge honey by its color," Webb said. "The general rule is the lighter the honey the lighter in taste, the darker the honey the darker in taste. Darker honey are generally baker grade because it holds its flavor when baking with it, lighter honeys are for table use.

"The color comes from the nectar source."

Also, honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries, according to the American Honey Producers.

Plus, honey also is very good for other ailments you may suffer from.

"The benefits of eating honey is constantly getting better and better," Webb said. "People are realizing how important it is."

Local honey is thought to help your immune system and allergies.

"Local could be anywhere within 50 miles of where you live," Webb said. "It doesn't have to be (from) next door. Honey is great for sore throats."

She also has a recipe for a beverage that uses honey, which can be a cure to several ailments.

"For persons who have problems sleeping ... this helps to promote better circulation in their body," Webb said. "It helps relieve stress and prevents insomnia and all it is, is a honey and apple cider vinegar beverage.

"You want to take 8 ounces of water and it's just warm enough to melt the honey, 1 to 2 tablespoons of local honey, 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar."

Mix the honey and vinegar together and drink it each night before bed, suggested Webb.

Binnie agreed that honey is great for your health.

"Honey is very unique and there are a lot of properties about honey that we don't understand yet," he said. "It really does have many healing properties. It's really good on skin, cuts and bruises and burns. ... It has naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide, it has a low pH so most germs and things can not survive in it."

Binnie said to always make sure you are buying local, raw honey.

"Raw honey is much better for you because the enzymes have not been killed by heat," he said. "Honey that has been heated and processed by a big packer doesn't have the life and enzymes in it that raw honey would."

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