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How is Italian honey made? Everything you need to know about this golden dessert at a glance

June 23, 2022

Italienische Bio Edel Imkerei von Di Bennardo

A 9,000-year-old cave painting in Spain shows the honey harvest. Since then, the sweet gold of cultures around the world has been used as food and medicine.

Honey is a natural product made by bees – one of the most important animals on the planet. Honey bees visit millions of flowers in their lives to help pollinate plants and collect nectar, which they bring back to the hive.

But how exactly is honey made? In this article, you’ll learn all about the history, production and different varieties of this golden elixir.

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What is honey? How and why do bees produce honey?

Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance produced by honey bees and some other bees. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants or from the secretions of other insects. Honey bees store the honey in wax structures known as honeycombs, while stingless bees store the honey in pots made of wax and resin.

The honey produced by honey bees is the best known because it is produced commercially around the world and consumed by humans. Honey is collected from wild bee colonies or from beehives of domesticated bees, a practice known as beekeeping. This honey is known as beekeeper’s honey.

A distinction must be made between untreated honey (raw honey) and normal honey. Untreated honey is only sieved before bottling, so that most of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants it contains are preserved. In contrast, ‘commercial’ honey can undergo a variety of processing processes that can remove useful nutrients such as pollen and reduce the antioxidant content.

But why do bees produce honey? Quite simply, honey bees have to produce honey in order to survive the cold winter months. They produce the honey before the cold sets in and store it for consumption during this time.

A brief tour through the history of honey

Honey and humans have a common history that goes back to the time before domesticated animals, baked goods and farms. The people who first came into contact with honey over 10,000 years ago found it in a wild bee nest and decided to try its sweet prey.

In a time when fruit was the sweetest thing it had ever tasted, honey seemed like a revelation from the gods. In the early centuries, almost every culture had a myth that explained the immortal sweetness of honey.

For thousands of years, the only safe way to collect honey was to find a wild hive whose locations were closely guarded. The first ‘domesticated’ beehive probably dates back to the Egyptians. The first beekeepers built beehives from old tree trunks to imitate the dwellings of wild flocks.

How is high-quality organic honey from Di Bennardo produced in Italy?

The high-quality organic honey from Di Bennardo is produced by two small fine beekeepers in Sicily and Piedmont – more precisely in the province of Enna and the Langhe. It starts with the honey bees sucking out the sweet, liquid nectar from a flower. They store the nectar in a special bag called the honeyhead, where enzymes break it down into monosugars. Back in the hive, other bees bring the nectar into the honeycombs. They hover over the cells and create a draught that dries out the nectar until it becomes honey, and then seal the cells with wax. The creamy substance that makes up the sweet golden nectar is now created in the cell.

Our fine beekeepers do not feed the bees with sugar water. This is a method used in conventional production when the bees are unable to collect enough nectar from natural sources. Feeding sugar water is simply an unnatural substitute that just adds more sweetness to the honey, but does not add any natural flavour. Our bees obtain the organic honey exclusively from natural regional sources in the Piedmont forest and in the meadows and orange groves of Sicily.

To ensure that all the ingredients and natural flavours of the region are retained, the honey is not heated, but simply blown cold. Our raw honeys are therefore 100% natural and do not contain any additives. What’s more, our small, high-end farms work sustainably and are bee-friendly. This means:

  • Support for bee health – bee hive management, no pesticides, foraging and protection of the beekeeping profession
  • Use for pure honey – protection of purity and full traceability

Italienischer Bio Honig Produktion von Di Bennardo
Italienischer Bio Honig in Gläser von Di Bennardo

Our Italian producers produce four organic honeys – summer blossom honey, orange blossom honey, Acacia honey and fine chestnut honey. These honeys are specially labelled as ‘bee friendly’.

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Is honey healthy? Ingredients, effects and calories for the popular bee product

Honey has also been used for medicinal purposes for a long time. Due to its antibacterial properties, honey has been used for a variety of diseases such as cuts, burns and infections. Honey is the only known food that contains all the ingredients needed to survive. It contains water, vitamins, minerals and the necessary enzymes to supply the body with energy. Pinocembrin, an antioxidant, is also found in honey and can improve the function of the human brain. Honey has similar antioxidant content to apples, spinach, strawberries and oranges.

Honey contains the following ingredients: Nutritional values and composition

  • Calories
    Each tablespoon of honey contains about 60 to 64 calories. Honey does not contain sodium. It does not contain cholesterol and has no fat content. The average composition of honey consists of about 80% carbohydrates, 18% water and 2% amino acids, vitamins and minerals. 
  • Carbohydrates
    Honey is rich in natural sugars, especially fructose and glucose, which means it is high in carbohydrates. Each tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbohydrates, 16 of which are sugar.
  • Vitamins and minerals
    The most common nutrients found in honey are vitamin B6, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. The amounts vary depending on the type of flower of the honey. Honey also contains minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium and zinc.
  • Antioxidants
    This nutritious sweetener also contains various antioxidant phenolic acids and flavonoids. These antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals, which are often involved in the development of many serious diseases.

  • Amino acids and enzymes
    Enzymes are proteins and are formed from amino acids. They have an important function in honey and contribute to its general properties. The enzymes in honey make it a unique food that is much more complex than other sweeteners. Honey contains 18 amino acids.
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The nutritional effect of bee honey

Honey is definitely more than just a simple sugar, as it is rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This healthy, natural sweetener offers many nutritional benefits without the artificially produced chemicals found in other sweeteners. Although nutritional information may vary slightly depending on the variety, it is generally very similar.

In addition to the many positive properties associated with frequent consumption of honey (anti-inflammatory, digestive, relief of cold symptoms, sleep promotion, etc.), it can also cause your blood sugar level to rise. Therefore, you should also find a good balance here and pay attention to your individual tolerability and health. One teaspoon a day is generally very healthy.

Is honey vegan? A brief explanation

Although honey production is a natural process, it is produced by insects and is therefore not vegan by definition.

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The variety of honey: The most important honey varieties at a glance

Flower honey

Flower honey, such as our orange blossom honey from Sicily, Summer blossom honey from Sicily, Chestnut honey from Piedmont and Acacia honey from Piedmont, are made from the nectar collected by bees from flowering plants.

Honey from honeydew

Honey from honeydew includes forest honey, fir honey and leaf honey. Honeydew is a sugar-containing excretion caused by insects that suck on plants – in this case, the sugar-containing excretion of bees.

Honey imported varieties

There are also imported honey varieties such as manuka honey, lavender honey, eucalyptus honey and thyme honey, to name just a few.

Filtered honey

Filtered honey is suitable for allergy sufferers. In this honey, the pollen is filtered out during the production process to make it more ‘tolerable’.

Recognising the quality and taste of Italian organic honey

Honey has a delicious, varied and delicately sweet taste. It is viscous and can be firm, creamy and quite liquid when warm. It also has a low moisture content of less than 18.6% water.

To identify high-quality honey, everyone should first take a look at the label. Honey, like the Bio Honey by Di Bennardo, should only consist of honey, i.e. contain no other additives. In addition, beekeepers should be organic certified and make a sustainable contribution to maintaining bee health and cultivation in the region.

In terms of taste, organic honeys differ primarily in the intensity of sweetness, floralness, bitterness, spice and fruit. Organic Orange Blossom Honey has a pleasantly light smell and taste of sweet blossoms, while Organic Chestnut Honey, on the other hand, is strong – robust, strong, smoky, bitter and spicy. In contrast, Organic Blossom Honey and Acacia Honey are agreeable mild and floral.

The special thing about regional blossom honeys from Di Bennardo is that they are the seasonal, authentic expression of the flora of their respective region. Each harvest tastes different, depending on the flower occurrence of the season in summer. In addition, organic honey should be cold extracted or spun and not heated. This is because the honey loses important nutrients and its natural consistency when heated.

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Bee mortality – causes and consequences for our ecosystem

Year after year, we are witnessing a further decline in our vital pollinators. But why are the bees dying out? And what can we do to stop it? Scientists have linked the decline in bee populations to a variety of factors. Many of them are interlinked. These include pesticides, climate change, habitat destruction and diseases affecting bees such as the wing deformation virus. The consequences for our natural world will be great if we lose these pollinators – and spread to our entire ecosystem. 

Bees are a key species. In other words, they play an important role for the entire ecosystem. Many other animals depend on pollinators. Because bees are such an important part of our world, we need to act quickly. We know that bee mortality is occurring on an unprecedented scale.

We can counter this problem by, for example, buying sustainably and regionally, taking care of nature in general and making conscious purchasing decisions.

Tips for using and storing honey

Why does honey crystallise? Honey crystallises because the sugar and water content separate. Over time, this process leads to the formation of tiny crystals that solidify the liquid honey. Crystallisation is a natural process that every raw and unfiltered honey goes through. You can decrystallise the honey in a warm water bath to restore it to its liquid form.

Despite its long shelf life, it is better to store honey properly in a dark place at a constant cool temperature so that you can enjoy the best quality for breakfast or your herbal tea. 

Italienische Bio Bienenstöcke von Di Bennardo

Frequently asked questions about

How is honey produced?

Honey is made from the flower nectar collected by the bees, which is broken down into simple sugar in the honeycomb. By building the honeycombs and constantly fanning the bees’ wings, the honey evaporates and turns into a sweet liquid. The colour and taste of the honey depend on the nectar collected by the bees.

What does honey contain?

Honey contains many minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. Minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium and zinc are also present. Honey also contains valuable enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants.

What effect does honey have on the body?

Honey has many positive physiological properties. It is anti-inflammatory, promotes sleep, inhibits the symptoms of colds and can aid digestion. However, excessive consumption can cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly.

How much sugar does honey contain?

Depending on the variety of honey, it contains between 27 and 44% fructose (fruit sugar), between 22 and 41% glucose (grape sugar), small amounts of sucrose, maltose, melecitose and other di- and oligosaccharides.

What types of honey are there?

  • Chestnut honey
  • Orange blossom honey
  • Clover honey
  • Wild Flower Honey
  • Summer flower honey
  • Forest honey
  • Acacia honey
  • Alfalfa Honey
  • Buckwheat honey
  • Leaf honey
  • Fir Honey
  • Manuka Honey
  • Eucalyptus honey
  • Lavender honey
  • Thyme honey
  • and more

Italienischer Premium Bio Honig von Di Bennardo

Order your blossom honey from Di Bennardo’s online shop now

Do you want to support sustainability and regional products of the highest premium quality with your purchase? The honey varieties of Di Bennardo leave nothing to be desired for honey lovers and offer honey from certified organic noble beekeepers from Sicily and Piedmont. Organic Orange Blossom Honey is seductively fruity.

Italienische Blüte für Bio Honig von Di Bennardo

The organic chestnut honey is an impressively intense experience, with a perfect harmony of bitterness, pleasantly light sweetness, spice and smokiness. Organic Acacia Honey brings the scent of the acacia forests of Piedmont into your own four walls – floral, velvety with a hint of vanilla. And if you want a unique taste experience, try the heavenly nectar of a thousand blossoms from the province of Enna in Sicily. Italy at its sweetest!

Order our organic honey online here!

Italienischer Edel Premium Bio Honig von Di Bennardo