Preserving the harvest: herbal honey.

thymehoney.JPGI swear I will never travel during harvest season again. I mean it. Really.

I’m off to teach at the second annual Northeast Community Herbal Convergence next weekend. I’m leaving for parts north tomorrow, and this morning it suddenly dawned on me that there might be frost before I get back. (It’s hard to remember these things when the weather is so warm.)

So I went into high harvest gear, doing things the quick-and-dirty way. I think I got most of what I wanted out of the garden and the weed patches around the farm. Now watch the frost come late this year. Fine. At least I’ll come home to a sweet smelling house—there are herbs drying all over the dining room.

And I was happy to have an excuse to play with some of my favorite substances: herbs and honey. Honey infused with aromatic herbs has got to be one of the most intensely wonderful things I have ever tasted. It’s good medicine too.

Herbal honey is radically easy to make:

Take a good bunch of your favorite aromatic herbs. (Thyme, lemon balm and bee balm are my favorites.)

Pack a layer of herb in a jar, cover it with a layer of honey,* and repeat. Finish with an extra layer of honey. It will be a sticky mess. No problem. Squish it with a spoon if there are big air pockets.

That’s all. (I said it was easy.)

Let it sit for a couple of weeks at least.

Taste it. Don’t eat it all at once.

That’s thyme and lemon thyme honeys in the picture. I’ll use them for sore throats and colds this winter. And I’ll eat them with a spoon when I feel like it.

*Make sure you get good quality honey. Talk to your beekeeper about how s/he deals with mites and other pests. Ask if s/he leaves honey for the bees to eat or feeds them sugar water. Don’t buy poisonous mass-produced grocery store honey if you can help it.

32 Comments »

  1. Jo said,

    September 29, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

    What a great idea–I am going to try this with some lemon balm. We just extracted our honey today.

  2. Jan S. said,

    October 2, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

    I am definately going to try this. Have fun in Attleboro.

  3. crabappleherbs said,

    October 3, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    Thanks! Let me know how the experiments go…

  4. Jackie said,

    October 11, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

    I love honey and have always wanted to incorporate herbs into it for medicinal purposes like sore throats and coughs. So I going to make this quickly. My only question is, do you use fresh herbs or dried? Does it matter? Also, have you ever used Horehound in honey? and if so, did it taste okay?

    Thank you.
    Jackie Mendizabal
    Foxhollow Herb Farm

  5. crabappleherbs said,

    October 11, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

    Hi Jackie. I’ve always used fresh herbs for honeys, but I suppose if you had a really strong, fragrant dried herb you could try that. The thing is, part of the way the honey “extracts” the herb is by drawing out water. And that wouldn’t happen with dried herbs. Why don’t you try a small amount and see how it is? Maybe make a fresh herb honey at the same time to compare?

    Horehound honey is an old European tradition. I’ve not made it myself, but now that you’ve reminded me of it, maybe I’ll do it next year. It tastes rather like horehound candy.

  6. The Herbwife’s Kitchen » Prolonging the harvest: bringing the garden inside. said,

    October 14, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

    […] got back from a trip North for the second annual Northeast Community Herbal Convergence.* I was worried it might frost while I was gone, but of course that didn’t happen. The garden is very much […]

  7. Milton said,

    October 21, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    Have you heard about garlic honey? I’ve never tried it, but I remember seeing it in an Asian fermented recipe book.

  8. Jan S. said,

    October 22, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

    I tried it with some lemon thyme and lemon balm and made a small jar of it. It looked sort of like the one in your photos for a while, but then the herbs floated to the top half of the jar, leaving the honey below. I guess refrigeration would keep it in suspension. Is there anything else you do to keep the herbs suspended or is this separation normal?

  9. crabappleherbs said,

    October 23, 2007 @ 10:24 am

    Milton, garlic honey is an old-time cold remedy. It’s not one I tend to make, as I like to take my garlic fresh in olive oil, but it’s definitely a classic.

    Jan, just take a chopstick and stir up the herbs and honey every once in a while. I wouldn’t suggest refrigerating it, as the cold might slow down the extraction process.

  10. mitzi landis said,

    November 3, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

    I never thought about fresh herbs in honey! Do you take the leaves or blossoms off of the stems? Do you eat the mascirated herbs along with the honey? Would it work with ginger, or lemon peel, etc.?

  11. Heidi (Earthkitten) said,

    November 4, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

    Oh wow, YUM!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration. 🙂

  12. crabappleherbs said,

    November 5, 2007 @ 11:07 am

    Hi Mitzi!

    I do generally eat the herbs in the honey — some roots are too fibrous, though, in which case I strain them out after they’ve soaked in the honey for at least a month or so. I take the leaves and flowers off the stems if the stems are tough or get in the way of packing the herb down in the jar.

    Ginger is wonderful in honey. I’ve not done lemon peel, but I bet it’d be great. Why don’t you try it and let us know how it goes? (It reminds me about Nanny’s candied grapefruit peel, which I wrote about a while back. Speaking of such things, I have some grapefruit peels in the freezer waiting to be candied…)

  13. mitzi landis said,

    November 20, 2007 @ 4:11 am

    I will try as soon as I can find some Meyer lemons. I thini my sister grows them. I’ll have her ship me a few. I have a good source for raw honey here where I live. I’ll let you know!

  14. crunchylittlemama said,

    May 14, 2008 @ 5:38 am

    I’m loving your blog, thanks for all the inspiration.
    I’m curious, what am I hoping that my beekeeper does to control mites and other pests?

  15. crabappleherbs said,

    May 15, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

    Thanks!

    Well, beekeepers have a number of options for mite control, including essential oils and thymol, an essential-oil-derived miticide. But really the best protection is to treat the bees well — to let them eat honey rather than sugar water, and generally take good care of them so they aren’t stressed and susceptible.

  16. ML said,

    May 27, 2008 @ 7:21 am

    Thank you!

    I intend to make today something similar: pine buds preserved in honey (good for coughs, also). I would like to add some lemon slices in each jar (no peel, just pulp becouse I don’t have organic lemons). What do you think?

    I love your blog, wonderful ideeas!

  17. crabappleherbs said,

    June 1, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    Hi ML.

    I’ve never used lemon in my honeys, but you could try it. It’s possible that it might ferment a bit, though, since the lemon is so juicy…

  18. ML said,

    August 21, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    I do appologise for thanking you so late. The pine buds syrup turned pretty tasty (I added some organic grapefruit slices and was O.K.). Thanks again!!

  19. crabappleherbs said,

    September 9, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

    You’re welcome!

  20. Marty said,

    August 29, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

    I would love to do this! Rosemary, Tarragon, ginger and lemon peal etc . . . . My question is how long will they keep? Are there no worries of botulism?

  21. 12-19 Flavoring Honey, Solar Cookers, Stuffed Mushrooms, Pear-Gorgonzola Ravioli and 13-Bean Soup | Sustainable Suppers said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    […]  Rebecca over at Crabapple Herbs has a great post on the folk medicine value of herbal honey.  Check it […]

  22. Mama_B said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 10:39 am

    I just came across this while Googling herbal honey. Thanks. I had forgotten how much I love sage honey as a glaze ingredient for pork and chicken. Now I’m wondering how Thai basil honey would be?

  23. advice said,

    December 1, 2012 @ 5:31 am

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  24. Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures said,

    April 12, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

    Mmmm… The honeys sound wonderful! I love lemon balm honey, but our favorite is probably ginger honey! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

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