All honey is not created equal. Much like wine, honey can develop different traits based on the plants it’s made from and their growing conditions. In the spring and summer, when the majority of plants are in bloom, much of the honey harvest is “wildflower honey”, meaning that it’s sourced from a wide variety of blossoms. This is probably what you envision when you think of honey: amber, runny, with a light taste just a bit richer than sugar. But after the main growing season, when there are fewer plants in bloom, honey can take on entirely new dimensions.
One of the most well-known fall honey varieties is goldenrod honey. Yes, it’s made from the allergy-inducing flower. Usually harvested in October, goldenrod honey is darker, heavier, and richer, with a higher nutrient content than the lighter honey harvested earlier in the year. With its stronger flavor, Goldenrod honey is also well-suited for making mead.
The most favored honey for brewing mead is buckwheat honey, probably the darkest of all North American honeys. Buckwheat honey can be so thick and deep that it verges on molasses in both taste and texture. While nobody has lukewarm feelings about buckwheat honey – it’s a love-it-or-hate-it proposition – it’s definitely worth trying to see how you like it.
If you prefer a lighter flavor, you can look for aster honey, made from some late-blooming clustered flowers. Aster honey is lighter in color and in flavor, and although it is more likely to crystallize than other varieties, it’s so candy-like that you may not have time to worry about it!
Fall honeys can offer a wide variety of flavors and profiles that you don’t find in other harvests. You may find a favorite among them and look forward to it each year.