For years I wasn’t a believer in varietal honey. I thought all honey is the same. How can you possible taste the difference. Well that changed when I really started to give honey a shot. I have seen the light! You should too. Different honeys have different flavors, textures, colors, even aromas. There are tons of varietal honeys out there. According to the National Honey Board, there are over 300 varieties of honey produced in just the United States! In trying not to overwhelm with 300 hundred plus options right off the bat, I want to start your honey varietal education with information on the top most commonly found varietal honeys in the American supermarket. Those two honeys are clover and wildflower. We are going to explore how these two honeys differ.
What is Clover Honey?
By far the most common variety of honey you will find is clover (we will get to why in a moment). This honey is collected from bees whose nectar source is clover. Most of the time the honey will indicate clover but not specific what type of clover. Clover honey is often collected from Dutch, sweet, white blossom, and yellow blossom clover. Bees absolutely love clover.
The best clover honey comes from a 4-leaf clover found at the end of rainbow. That would be cute if that were true. Most of the clover honey you find in the stores comes from various sources that is blended together. This is done so the clover honey tastes the same whenever you buy that brand. If you buy clover honey from a particular source that only gets their honey from one region you will taste different from year to year. I personally don’t think that is a bad thing. You see that all the time in the wine world – different vintages.
My favorite clover honey of all time comes from Grandpa’s Gourmet Honey. It is an outstanding honey, with a light tasty flavor. If you have only had store brand honey this one will knock your socks off. They harvest their clover honey from sweet and yellow clover in Southern San Luis Valley, Colorado.
Why Is There So Much Clover Honey?
I was wondering myself how come clover honey is the most common honey in the United States. I found an article that did a fantastic job of explaining this. You can check out this article yourself. It is a great read. Let me highlight one of the main points:
The USDA provides incentives for farmers in North Dakota and elsewhere to cultivate their unused or marginal land, soil that is too poor quality—too arid or too erodible, say—to otherwise yield a profit. The goal is to reduce erosion, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat. Simply put, the government “rents” about 25 million acres of land, under 10- or 15-year contracts at market prices, in exchange for the landowners’ commitment to enrich it. Sweet clover, it turns out, is just right for the job.
North Dakota is the largest honey producer in the country by far. Clover is a great choice to grow as it fixes nitrogen into the soil and as I said before the bees simply love it. These high incentives are why clover honey is so common.
What is Wildflower Honey?
Any honey that strictly comes from wildflowers is wildflower honey. It is not a specific wildflower. Most likely wildflowers all grown in the same area where the bees are collecting from. That opens up many a possibly. Time of year often effects the taste of the honey. It has been my experience that wildflower honey harvested in the late spring/early summer months is lighter in color and flavor. The stuff that is harvested in the late summer/early fall is darker and more robust in taste. All has to do with the types of flower available at the time the honey is made.
Wildflower just like clover honey (or really any honey) can change from year to year. Mass produce wildflower honey is mixed together from different sources to create a uniform flavor. That is likely the case with the honey pictured above.
To experience the range of wildflower honeys look for local sources, such as the one above.
Some wildflower honey will come labeled the time of year it is collected. It’s fun to find a producer that has different wildflower honeys from different seasons and compare the two.
Wildflower Honey Comes From All Over
I love the description from the Savannah Bee Company’s website on wildflower honey:
Wildflower honey is a taste which reflects a specific part of the world during a specific time. An edible tribute to the small section of the planet that the wildflower honey comes from! It is a flavor representation of a specific place in time and space.
I adore that thought! I recommend seeking out wildflower honey that specifically from different regions (such as the one pictured below). Wildflower honey is produced all over the place from the farmlands of Midwest to the deserts of Arizona. Even wildflower collected 50 miles apart can be drastically different.
What is the Difference Between Clover and Wildflower Honey
Now that you are a little more familiar with clover and wildflower honey, let me explain the difference. In terms of sweetness, all honey is sweet, and I think it can be hard to dedicate if one honey is sweeter than another. The difference really comes down to taste. Clover honey is in general milder in flavor than wildflower. Another reason why clover honey is common is because it is mild. It is a honey most people will agree on.
If you look at the color, clover honey is usually lighter in color than wildflower honey. I find the darker the honey, the stronger the flavor. Buckwheat honey is almost black in color and it has a really strong, robust flavor. Wildflower honey fall in terms of flavor between clover and buckwheat. You can taste floral undertones in wildflower honey.
Which Honey is Better for Cooking With – Clover or Wildflower?
You can use either. I think if you got a recipe that calls for honey I would opt for wildflower honey over clover. Due to the stronger flavor of wildflower honeys, you will taste more of the flavor of the honey in your finished product. Save clover honey for a hone you use at the table for things like biscuits and other breads.