Honey, they say, is the nectar of the Gods. Anyone who'd tasted honey wouldn't disagree with this statement, especially if the honey is of the unifloral kind, like Meghalaya's one-of-kind, orange blossom honey. Its taste is kind of…divine!
What is Unifloral Honey?When bees forage for nectar and pollen from single types of flowers like, say mustard or litchi, the honey that result carries with it the singular aroma of those flowers. That's unifloral honey.
What is Orange Blossom Honey?It is a honey where the source is naturally flowers of orange trees. Bees may, however, also forage from other citrus sources along with orange. The honey that results would still be light-golden to amber in colour and mild to sweet in flavour, but with a tangy twist in fragrance.
Orange blossom honey of Meghalaya is unifloral. It comes from the southern slopes, the Ri-War region of the State that is awash with orchards of Khasi Mandarin oranges. That's the orange that's easily the juiciest and tastiest of all oranges and now proudly sports a GI tag.
That same orangey taste lingers in Meghalaya orange blossom honey. The flowers of hundreds of Khasi mandarin orange trees provide foraging ground for the local bees to collect nectar. That explains the Ri-War honey's light-gold to amber colour, distinctive tangy flavour, and orangey taste.
Fresh orange blossom honey is sweet to taste, with a scent that's light and citrusy but accompanied by the unmistakable aroma of orange blossoms. With age, however, a delicately fruity taste overtakes it, topped with slight overtones of citric acid.
This honey is sometimes called Sohra (Cherrapunjee) honey because that town is the first market hub for all of Ri-War's food produce. Sohra orange blossom honey is Meghalaya's unique unifloral honey because it's derived solely from the orange blossoms that bloom in the orange country of East Khasi hills.
What Does Research Says About Orange Blossom Honey?Sohra honey's unifloral character was established through pollen analysis by researchers who determined the effect of sonication time on the bioactive properties of honey from Northeast India.
Among the samples, they found Sohra honey to possess the following statistics:
Refractive index - 1.4982 at 20˚C
Moisture content -15.4% pH - 3.9
Total acidity - 23.14 meq/kg
Soluble protein content- 49.87 g/kg
Carbohydrates content - 828.8 g/kg
HMF (hydroxyfurfural) content - 49.87 mg/kg
All these parameters were well within the food code standards of the FAO/WHO's (Food and Agriculture/World Health Organisation) Codex Alimentarius 2001.
Quality markers for honey are its moisture content, total acidity and HMF and honey from Sohra (and Jorhat) exhibited good quality standards, the researchers concluded. So, Meghalaya's orange blossom honey passes all tests, conforming to both Codex and Indian food standards.
Some Disturbing TrendsThere is, however, a present decline in orange cultivation due to various factors like deforestation during the last twenty years. This affects the bees as much as the trees and has badly hit the production of orange blossom honey.
The government is making efforts to counter the problem with its push towards the national bee and horticulture mission that's now underway. So, there are fair chances yet of rejuvenation of both the mandarins and the bee population that'll bring in a copious supply of orange blossom honey in future.
A Little About Health Benefits of Orange Blossom HoneyFood value apart, there's so much you can gain from orange blossom honey. Take a look at some of the health benefits below:
- It's high in natural antioxidants. A little honey in your diet is sure to keep you freer from sicknesses.
- It's an efficient anti-bacterial agent. Try applying a thin film on wounds, burns and scalds and you'll experience faster healing.
- It's a great source for minerals like Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Zinc, Iron and Selenium. Each of these minerals is of immense nutritional value for humans.
- It boosts the immune system. Honey helps regulate your blood cholesterol levels and moisturize your skin.
Here's Why You Want Orange Blossom Honey from Meghalaya
- It comes from the flowers of the famed Khasi mandarin orange, the king of oranges. These flowers are what make the honey the unique and extraordinary stuff it is.
- It's natural, fresh from the orange orchards, harvested by the beekeepers straight from their hives, extracted naturally way with no heating, no filtering and no additives and bottled raw.
- Meghalaya's orange blossom honey is pure, unmixed with artificial sweeteners or additional ingredients. You can be sure it contains natural bee pollen, royal jelly, bee propolis and beeswax–components that can do wonders for your health.
- It's versatile. You can use it to sweeten your beverages or mix it with black pepper and turmeric to ease away your cough. Again, you can clear blemishes from your skin, rubbing honey with orange peels.
Is Orange Blossom Honey Preferable Over Other Kinds of Honey?Orange blossom honey is unifloral, that is, it's made by bees that have collected nectar and pollen predominantly from the flowers of the orange trees. That's the reason it takes on the unique scents and flavours of the orange blossoms while it's also lighter in shade.
Multi-floral kinds of honey, on the other hand, come from multiple flowers and therefore take on the characteristics of those flowers. Their colours are usually darker and the flavours might be sweeter than orange blossom honey. But as far as benefits are concerned, all varieties of honey are valued natural products since time immemorial, dating back at least ten thousand years.
Food and nutrition apart, the range of therapeutic applications honey can be of use are amazingly extensive – from eye diseases to worm infections to skin problems. You name it, honey can do it! More and more research has brought evidence of honey's efficacy in disease management, both preventive and curative. However, some honey varieties are rated higher than others.
For example, Manuka honey from New Zealand is well-known for its high antibacterial effects because of Methylglyoxal, its active ingredient. Similarly, Ngap ryngkai, or the stingless bee honey of Meghalaya is highly valued for its high medicinal properties in healing eye diseases.
One reason for its efficacy is said to be due to the bees' foraging from medicinal flowers of the forest floor. The orange fruit has a string of near-miraculous health benefits. Honey garnered from orange flowers would eventually carry those benefits as well.
So, if you enjoy eating orange blossom honey for its unique and delicate flavours, then you also know it has more than only taste. Like all kinds of natural honey, orange blossom honey will give you benefits that will contribute to your health, beauty and well-being both internally and externally.