Why citrus? Why not orange honey, or lemon honey? What does citrus honey mean?
Well, we use this terminology for 2 reasons:
1. Because usually there is not only one specific orchard. Different species, hybrids, varieties and cultivars of citrus are all common to Mediterranean countries. They are cultivated for the production of fruits and aromatic essences and are placed next to each other. All their nectar is highly attractive to bees. The honey resulted is called citrus honey. The nectar can come from: oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mandarins, tangerines, limes and many others.
2. There are also specific monofloral honeys such as orange honey, lemon honey, grapefruit honey and so on, resulting from very large cultures, but their physicochemical characteristics are similar and thus only one class is usually considered, referred to as Citrus spp.
Main producers: Spain (Granada) and Italy (Sicily, Calabria), but also Israel, USA (Florida, Southern California, Texas, Arizona), Brazil and Mexico.
(CITRUS SPP. – RUTACEAE)
Citrus honey characteristics:
Color intensity: very light white, 15.0 ± 6.6 (mm Pfund)
Aroma: fresh (anise), floral – fresh fruit (floral), the highest aromatic content found in fresh honeys
Persistence/aftertaste: short to medium
Crystallization rate: moderate, into fine crystals
Electrical conductivity: low, 0.19 ± 0.06 (mS/cm)
Free Acidity: 14.3 ± 3.2 (meq/kg)
Diastase: low, 9.6 ± 2.9 (DN)
Invertase: 40 U/kg
Proline content: Citrus honey from Greece has a content of 769 mg/kg ± 157 and Italy of 232 mg/kg ± 95.
Fructose: 38.7 ± 2.6 (g/100 g)
Glucose: 31.4 ± 2.1(g/100 g)
Sucrose: slightly high, 1.2 g/100 g, but sometimes higher than 5 g/100 g.
Fructose + Glucose: 70.1 ± 3.5 (g/100 g)
Fructose /Glucose ratio: 1.24 ± 0.12
Glucose /Water ratio: 1.92 ± 0.15
Water content: 16.6 g/100 g
Specific pollen: 18.6 %, usually under-represented, at a lesser or greater extent depending on the different species and cultivars.
Vitamin content: high content, mostly Vit B3 (26 ± 2) B5, B2, B9 and C.
Total phenolic content: very low, 286 μg GAE/g.
Antioxidant activity: low
Specific markers of citrus honey:
– Methyl anthranilate (MA) A content of at least 2 mg/kg as typical is required for an authentic unifloral honey. MA has aroma characteristics described as fruity, concord grape, musty with a floral powdery nuance. Among the unifloral samples the MA content was lower in those produced in Italy than in the other countries, and mostly below the 2 mg/kg limit that some European laboratories require to accept Citrus honey.
– Hesperitin (a flavonoid reported as a marker of this type of honey. Read more about it on researchgate.net)
– Caffeine: this is a unique characteristic of orange blossom honey. Yet, the amount is less than 4mg/Kg of honey, which is less than decaffeinated coffee.
Why is citrus honey so popular and so aromatic?
Well, it is popular because it is so aromatic! 🙂
The study Aroma investigation of unifloral Greek citrus honey using solid-phase microextraction coupled to gas chromatographic–mass spectrometric analysis, by Eleftherios Alissandrakis et al., from 2007, investigates the aroma of Greek citrus honey.
“A total of 61 compounds could be identified, with lilac aldehydes predominating the extract. These compounds can be considered the most powerful markers for citrus honey. Additionally, the two isomeric dehydroxy linaloxides, lavender lactone, dill ether, the four isomers of 1-p-menthen-9-al, methyl anthranilate and nerolidol could aid the botanical discrimination. Of the compounds identified, five are reported as honey constituents for the first time, that is trans- and cis-dehydroxy linaloxides, 1,8-menthadien-4-ol, limonene-10-ol and methyl N-methylanthranilate.”
And so we have elucidated the aroma mystery!
Citrus honey health benefits
It improves sleep.
Honey influences beneficially human sleep, mainly because honey stabilizes blood sugar levels and contributes to the release of melatonin, the hormone required for recovery and rebuilding of body tissues during rest. In a study done by COHEN, H A et al. in 2012, 3 honeys (eucalyptus, citrus and labiatae) showed improvement of sleep in children (1-5 year old) with upper respiratory tract infections.
The same conclusion is offered by another study made by BOGDANOV, S et al. in 2006: citrus honey helps improve sleep.
It decreases the affects of alcohol intoxication.
The study published in 2004, Effect of Nigerian citrus (Citrus sinensis Osbeck) honey on ethanol metabolism, by I Onyesom, from the Department of Biochemistry, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, showed that honey could be a promising anti-intoxicating agent, though its long-term biochemical evaluation, possibly as a complement in the management of alcohol intoxication, deserves further study.
In the study the effect of Nigerian citrus honey was tested on ethanol metabolism, using 45 individuals, between the ages of 25 and 35, in apparent good health. The subjects were moderate social drinkers matched in terms of body weight and build. The results obtained showed that on average, honey significantly (p < 0.05) increased the blood ethanol clearance rate by 68% and decreased the intoxication period by 43%, but insignificantly (p > 0.05) reduced the degree of intoxication by 9%.
Also read: Alcohol detoxification with honey
Folk literature also recommends citrus honey for its beneficial role for common intestinal problems (BOGDANOV, S et al., 2006) and nervousness.
Otherwise, citrus honey is low in polyphenols and has a weak antioxidant capacity.
From the category of citrus honey, here is bergamoth honey, coming from the area of Reggio Calabria, along the slopes of the Etna active volcano, Sicily, Italy. This is a rare and sophisticated honey that is impossible to find in the US. There are even Italians who never heard of it. It is packed in small batches, it’s raw and organic.
Bergamot (wiki link) is a citrus shaped like a pear, larger than a lemon and green-yellow in color. Its rind is squeezed to extract bergamot essence, which is used to flavor earl grey tea and in perfumes. Do not confuse it with the wild flower that grows in certain parts of the US, also called bergamot!
The honey istangy, fruity, floral, heady, and more sophisticated than lemon and orange blossom honeys. The producer says it has a “hint of mysterious, exotic perfume on the finish, similar to bergamot oil, but very faint”.
Eat your citrus honey while still fresh, or store it properly!
A study from 2008, “Influence of storage conditions on chemical composition and sensory properties of citrus honey“, by Castro-Vázquez L et al, analyzes how citrus honey changes according to storage conditions and evaluates it using physicochemical parameters, volatile compounds, mono-, di-, and trisaccharides, and sensory analysis. In the tests, fresh citrus honey was stored at 10, 20, and 40 degrees C for 12 months.
After 12 months, at 40ºC: Diastase activity and Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) were out of the legal limit. Honey changed its olfactory characteristics into: “medicinal, smoked, toasted, cooked vegetable, and ripened fruit” associated with compounds formed during the Maillard reaction or through degradation of sugars such as volatile pyrroles, furanones, pyranones, and pyrazines.
After 12 months, at 10 and 20ºC: Honey kept its floral, fresh, citric, and fresh fruit aroma, but the intensities of these attributes diminished.
After 12 months, at any temperature: Volatile compounds (especially terpenes and terpene derivatives), monosaccharides, and disaccharides presented important losses.
How to store it properly?
Fresh honey means honey in its 3 months of existence.
Low temperatures maintain the quality of honey for more, though it make it crystallize immediately. The best way to keep a fresh honey fresh for a long time is to freeze it. Pour it in a larger container and place it in the freezer. Under 5ºC it won’t crystallize, only get thicker.
Main European unifloral honeys: descriptive sheets – Apidologie 35 (2004) S38–S81 © INRA/DIB-AGIB/ EDP Sciences, 2004
“Orange slices – picture credit antpkr via FreeDigitalPhotos.net