Linden Honey

Linden Honey
Linden honey

It was Greek mythology that led many to anoint the Linden tree the “tree of life.” and there are stories that describe villagers dancing around a linden tree as a form of celebration. In modern times, this is a tree that lines the streets of many communities in both the United States and Europe.

The honey made from the nectar of these trees is prized for its unique taste and aroma, and because an annual linden honey crop can’t be guaranteed, it’s even more valuable.

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    What Is Linden Honey and Where Does It Come From?

    Linden honey is a monofloral honey that’s produced in North America, the U.K., other parts of Europe, and in Asia. This honey is essentially the same in all of these places but has three different names; basswood honey, lime honey and linden honey. In North America, it’s called Basswood, in the U.K. they call it Lime (often because the flowers are greenish-yellow), and in the rest of the world, they refer to it as Linden.

    The common denominator is the Tilia genus of trees – and there are thirty species within that genus. In North America, most of the trees that produce the honey are Tilia americana. Some who notice this tree during the most humid part of the summer call it the “bee tree” because it produces so much nectar at this time and bees are extremely drawn to it.

    There’s so much nectar – as much as forty pounds per individual tree – that honey bees can potentially gather a full ounce from each flower. When Linden honey is at its freshest, it’s relatively clear with a green tinge and turns yellow-to-amber as it ages. It crystallizes quickly – within about four months – because of its high glucose-to-fructose ratio.

    Because it’s a light-coloured honey, people are surprised that it has such a strong taste and aroma. Some say it smells woody at first, and then they detect a minty, menthol scent. Linden honey’s taste is sweet, spicy, and slightly bitter.

    Beekeeper with bee swarm
    Beekeeper with bee swarm - Credit Honey Tradition

    How Is Linden Honey Produced?

    The moment the honey bee collects the linden nectar, it is mixed with an enzyme within the bees mouth. The enzyme itself is known as invertase or the “bee enzyme” which is secreted from the bee’s glands.

    When the honey bees return to the hive, they will pass the linden nectar they have collected between themselves further mixing the nectar with the “bee enzyme”. This will reduce the water content converting the nectar into honey. They will then deposit the linden honey into wax cells, but at this point, the water content may be too high.

    To reduce the water content, the honey bees will fan their wings above the wax cell, this, in turn, will evaporate some of the water. Once they’ve finished the process, the linden honey will have a water content roughly below 20%. It will then be capped, and the honey bees will repeat the process all over again.

    Challenges When Producing Linden Honey

    For beekeepers who produce and sell linden honey, they are burdened with uncertainty about their crop during every season. Although linden trees do have tremendous potential to produce a lot of honey, weather can often get in the way of reaching that goal.

    While the flowers typically bloom during a three-week period, a change in weather can cut the bloom time down to only two days. It’s also possible that heavy rains could wash away the nectar because the flowers are so delicate and are prone to fall during a heavy downpour.

    Furthermore, seed production can be hit or miss as well, occurring every three to four years. The average beekeeper can count on a good honey crop only two-to-three years out of five.

    Linden Tree
    Linden tree
    Flowering Linden Leaves
    Flowering linden leaves which honey bees will pollinate

    The Best Environment for Producing Linden Honey

    The Tilia genus grows best in areas with temperate climates, and they’re found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, most of these trees are Tilia americana or Tilia americana var. heterophylla.

    In the United States, you’ll often find them in the eastern portion of the country – typically east of the Mississippi and near the Appalachian Mountains. Nectar begins to flow in late spring to early summer, and it hits its peak when the weather turns humid. But there’s only a three-week period when the nectar is available, so the bees have to act quickly within a short time window.

    Europe also produces a great amount of linden honey. A Slovakian honey farm called Honey Tradition who has about 200 bee hives, says: 

    “The amount of honey bees produce varies broadly mainly due to weather conditions which is getting more unstable every year. Luckily, in 2021 conditions were favourable for linden and we were able to harvest a few tons.”

    Scientists had been keeping their eye on linden trees – particularly silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) – because they noted a correlation between certain species and a high number of bee deaths. It was originally thought that a carbohydrate in the nectar was toxic, but they later discovered that the bees were likely dying from starvation due to the lack of nectar during the late part of the season.

    While Tilia trees do provide an ample source of food for the bees, they must find other blooms to supplement their nutritional supply.

    What Are the Benefits of Linden Honey?

    Healing Wounds and Burns There has been positive effects of using raw honey on wounds & burns reported.
    Reducing The Duration of Diarrhoea According the NCBI consumption of raw honey has been shown to reduce the severity & duration of diarrhoea.
    Preventing Acid Reflux Research has shown that with honey lining the oesophagus and stomach, it actually can reduce the upward flow of undigested food and stomach acid.
    Fighting Infections Scientists in 2010 reported that honey through its protein (defensin-1) has the ability to kill bacteria.
    Relieving cold and cough symptoms Its been proven that honey may prove beneficial in relieving cold and cough symptoms. The World Health Organisation actually recommend honey as a natural cough remedy.
    Rich In Antioxidants High quality raw honey contains many helpful antioxidants. These include phenolic compounds like flavonoids and organic acids.
    Can Lower Triglycerides Triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance and are a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.
    Higher Levels of Vitamins and Minerals Linden honey has higher levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, biotin and niacin than many other types of honey.

    This is based on raw honey. Filtered or pasteurised honey will break down and diminish these benefits.

    Linden Honey as an Antiseptic

    Linden honey can effectively slow the spread of bacteria because it contains hydrogen peroxide. The acidic pH and low moisture content of linden honey can also stop bacteria growth at an infection site.

    Beehives Placed To Collect Linden Honey
    Beehives positioned to collect linden honey

    Linden Honey vs Regular Honey

    Linden honey does contain trace amounts of vitamins, macronutrients, minerals, and acids. Overall, it is made up of over 400 substances and compounds. Compared to other types of honey, it does contain more B vitamins, as well as Vitamin C, biotin, and niacin.

    The distribution of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc is nearly identical to the distribution in the human body, and that makes them easily absorbed. Linden honey’s taste is sweet, spicy, and slightly bitter.

    In a raw state, it will naturally contain many if not all of the benefits listed above. In comparison, regular honey will hold that somewhat industrial standard taste and tends to be missing crucial benefits and nutritional properties of raw honey.

    This is typically due to “regular” mass-produced honey being fine filtered and pasteurized which, unfortunately, destroys many of the antibacterial and active elements.Research shows that the processing of honey can reduce antioxidant levels by up to (and even more than) 30%.The reduction of these antioxidant reduces linden honey’s effectiveness as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent.

    The Chemical Composition of Linden Honey

    Ingredient Per 100 Grams
    Fructose 36.2 g
    Glucose 33.9 g
    Water 16.8 g
    Turanose 1.9 g
    Isomaltose 1.0 g
    Trehalose 0.6 g

    Other substances (in trace amounts) include:

    • Vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, Vitamin C, biotin, tocopherol, and niacin
    • Macronutrients like potassium, calcium, sulfur, copper, iodine, aluminum, nickel, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and cobalt
    • Organic and inorganic acids: gluconic, citric, lactic, malic, tartaric acid, linolenic acid, oxalic acid, succinic acid, hydrochloric acid, and phosphoric acid
    Beekeeper and bee hive
    Before extracting Linden honey beekeepers inspect the beehive - Credit: Honey Tradition

    Is Linden Honey Vegan?

    The Vegan Society do not consider honey vegan, this includes cornflower honey. They believe that because some honey farmers replace honey with a sugar substitute when harvesting, it will naturally lack the essential micronutrients of honey, thus being detrimental to the honey bees.

    Furthermore, they believe that in conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Which they believe leads to a narrowing of the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large scale die-offs.

    They also believe that many honey farmers will cull their hives post-harvest and clip the queen bee’s wings to stop them from leaving to start a new colony. Thus the Vegan Society does not consider honey vegan. That, of course, doesn’t stop some vegans arguing its fine if they source their honey from reliable sources that do not practice the above.

    Is Linden Honey Expensive?

    While the price of linden honey can vary depending on the precise region where it’s sourced, a pound of linden honey in the U.S. averages $13, which is more expensive than many other types of honey. An average pricing guideline would be $3 to $4 per 100g in the USA and £1.50 to £3 per 100g in the U.K.

    The high price is often due to the short window of time the nectar is available, the fact that seed production doesn’t occur every year, and the various other weather conditions that make linden honey production a challenge for many beekeepers.

    Sources

    Medical News Today | Healthline | NCBI  | University of New Hampshire | Semantic Scholar | Journal of Medicinal Food (2008)

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