Manuka honey is hugely popular, but what exactly is it, and why is it so popular? Our beekeeping apprentice, Katie Warwick tells all...
What is Manuka honey?
Manuka honey originates in New Zealand. Honey bees collect the nectar from the native Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). Manuka is an evergreen tree that produces small white and pink fragrant flowers that honey bees love. The nectar the bees collect from this plant is converted into honey thus creating Manuka honey!
For a long time Manuka honey was not desirable to most people and, although the Maoris have long been aware of the medicinal value of the plant, the honey was hard to get rid of. Supposedly farmers would even use it as a feed for their animals.
What is Manuka honey good for?
That must seem like another world now. In the past couple of decades, as more and more people have got interested in the content of their food and the benefits it provides, the popularity of Manuka honey has skyrocketed. This is due to the active compounds it contains that give it natural antibacterial properties.
So what is Manuka honey good for? Health claims about Manuka honey are numerous and include wound healing (when applied directly), anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. How many people knew that in some health services, bandages are used which are impregnated with Manuka honey? Not all Manuka honey is created equal and some are considered more pure and potent than others. This is represented on a jar by the UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. Next to the UMF will be a number such as 10+. The higher this number, the purer and more potent the Manuka is.
Manuka honey is a thick, dark and strong tasting honey, packed full of natural antibacterial properties. Sound familiar? Well that’s because we have our very own alternative right here in the Scotland – heather honey, with it's own antibacterial qualities (click here to read more).
I was fortunate enough to spend some time in New Zealand beekeeping at the beginning of the year and it struck me how similar the two honeys are - from plant habitat to consistency of honey to method of extraction through to health benefits! Both honeys are great - the big difference is that heather is produced right here in the UK.