Honey vs Clover Honey

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Honey is available in many diverse varieties with distinctive flavors, colors and aromas. Among these, clover honey stands out as a consumer favorite – especially here in the United States. In this guide, I will explain the similarities and differences of regular honey vs clover honey and how it is used in the food industry. Also, how beekeepers produce clover honey to meet the demand.

Honey bee foraging on clover blossom and jar of clover honey.

Most people have no idea of the many different types of honey that bees make. This is rather sad because you are missing out on some great stuff. Some varieties have a bold flavor while others are mild – even their sweetness levels vary. Try them all.

Characteristics of Clover Honey

Clover honey has distinctive qualities that help distinguish it from other honey types. This is because it is a “monofloral honey” (honey made from predominately on nectar source). Once you have tasted it regularly, it becomes easy to recognize.

Taste and Texture

One of the most applaudable characteristics of clover honey is it’s mild, sweet flavor. This is why it is a favorite for using in honey recipes.

The light floral taste does not overpower the other ingredients in your recipe. It is used as a sweetener for beverages and the baking industry uses much clover honey to help keep baked goods moist.

Unless it is crystallized, clover honey has a smooth silky consistency. However, because it does form a fine creamy texture – it is a favorite for those wishing to make creamed honey. It provides wonderful seed starter.

Color and Appearance

When you think of honey, those golden honey bears in the market may be one of the first things that comes to mind.

We are trained to think that golden is the preferred honey color. Clover honey meets this idealized requirement. It is often beautiful with colors that range from almost clear to a pale amber.

This light color is associated with the mildness of clover honey. This distinguishes it from darker honey varieties like buckwheat honey or forest honey (honeydew), which tend to have stronger, more robust flavors.

Commercially labeled clover honey for sale in local grocery, read the label.

Differences Between Clover Honey and Other Honey Varieties

Honey made from one nectar source will be labeled to reflect that. I think clover honey is one of the easiest varieties to recognize by color and flavor. Why is it different? Let’s compare regular honey vs clover and see where the differences occur.

Nectar Source

The primary factor in differentiating clover honey from other honey types is nectar source. Honey bees collect nectar to make honey. The plants (types of flowers) this nectar is gathered from has everything to do with the color and taste of the final product.

Clover honey is made from the nectar of clover flowers, predominantly white clover (Trifolium repens) and red clover (Trifolium pratense).

Other honey varieties nectar sources:

Color chart showing the differences in 3 poplar honey varieties.

Wildflower

This is produced from the nectar of various wildflowers. No, I do not mean only those tiny wildflowers we see in a forest. The nectar sources vary by season and geographical location.

Foragers visit many trees that bees like, flowering shrubs and yes millions of small flowers. All of this nectar is mixed together during the honey making process.

This is a major difference between regular wildflower honey and clover honey-resulting in colors and flavors that vary greatly. Wildflower can be light or darker – mild or robust in flavor!

Buckwheat

Buckwheat honey is made from the nectar of buckwheat flowers (Fagopyrum esculentum). This results in a dark, bold flavored honey that is often used in baking.

Some beekeepers – (like me), plant small plots of buckwheat for bees in late summer – a time when few things are in bloom.

Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom honey is a favorite of many people. It is made from the nectar of various citrus flowers (including oranges). The slightly orange flavor makes it a favorite to use as table honey or to sweeten tea.

Info graphic on how beekeepers produce clover honey. Showing hive placement, bee foraging and honey removal.

How Beekeepers Produce Clover Honey

Producing clover honey is a labor of love for many beekeepers. It is a two-fold process where both the honey bees and the beekeeper have a role to play.

Hive Placement

Just prior to the bloom, beekeepers place beehives in or near clover fields. This ensures that the colony has easy access to the nectar-rich flowers. There is no need for the bees to travel a long distance to the crop.

Empty honey collection boxes are placed on the hive – ready to be filled with nectar from the clover fields.

Nectar Collection and Storage

The clover bloom begins and worker bees collect nectar by sucking up the liquid using their straw like mouth parts. It is stored in a special internal organ called a honey stomach for the trip back to the hive.

Now, the process of converting nectar into honey takes place in earnest. Enzymes are added and the moisture content is reduced until the honey is ripe and ready to store in honeycomb. Finally, wax caps are added to protect it and prevent spoilage.

The Harvest

Thankfully, bees can produce much more honey than they need for Winter. Beekeepers can responsibly harvest honey without harming bees if managed with care.

When the bloom period is over (or the honey boxes are full and capped), the beekeeper is ready to remove the clover honey from the colony.

Using specialized tools, the honey is extracted or separated from the wax comb. Then, it is ready to filter (to remove large wax particles) and bottle for use or sale.

Seasonal Factors Affecting Production

Some seasonal factors affect the production of clover honey – or any honey for that matter.

  • bloom
  • weather
  • colony health
  • location

Bloom Period: Beekeepers must plan to have hives in place at the appropriate time to maximize nectar collection. Placing colonies too late could result in missing part of the harvest.

Weather Conditions: Weather plays a critical role in producing clover honey. During the bloom, fair warm days are needed so the foraging bees can collect nectar.

In the weeks just prior to the bloom, adequate rain is needed to encourage clover flowers to produce abundant nectar. Too much or too little rain at the wrong time can have a negative impact on the harvest.

Colony Health: The health of honey bee colonies plays a major role in how much clover honey is produced. Strong hives with healthy bees will produce much more honey than weak hives with fewer workers.

Beekeepers must strive to keep the colonies pest and disease free and have them at optimum strength prior to and during the clover bloom.

Location Factors: Regardless of the crop or plant, some regions produce more honey than others. Many factors affect nectar production and the bees ability to work the bloom.

For example, I produce a very small amount of Sourwood honey each year. Beekeepers living just a few miles south of me do not. Why?

I am at a slightly higher elevation (just on the fringe) that is preferred by the trees for nectar production. Location plays a role.

Personal Point of View

I am likely one of the few people on Earth that does not like clover honey. Why? I guess it is because it tastes very different from the darker Tulip Poplar honey that I grew up on.

Yet, millions of consumers can’t all be wrong. North Dakota is the top clover honey producing state in the US. Many producers sell their crop to large packers such as Dutch Gold Honey. They blend together the clover honey from different producers to create a consistent product.

FAQs

What are the nutritional benefits of clover honey?

Clover honey is not nutritionally different from other honey varieties. It provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s often used as a natural remedy for its antibacterial properties and is a popular choice for sweetening foods and beverages.

Why is so much clover honey produced?

Clover plants are very robust and produce nectar even in times with little rain. Being legumes, they do not require expensive fertilization or care. This makes clover a top honey plant in many regions.

How do beekeepers produce clover honey?

Beekeepers strategically place hives with empty honey boxes near clover-rich fields during the bloom period. Bees collect clover nectar, which is then transformed into honey.

Is clover honey suitable for all culinary uses?

Yes, clover honey’s mild flavor and smooth texture make it versatile for various culinary applications. It’s commonly used in baking, cooking, as a natural sweetener in beverages, and even enjoyed on its own.

Final Thoughts

The difference between regular honey vs clover honey lies not only in flavor, color, and texture but also in the nectar source. Clover honey has a mild, sweet taste and light golden color that remains a favorite in the United States. I have never produced clover honey because there are no clover fields in upstate South Carolina. However, I do know that planting clover for bees is a good way to add some nutrition to your bee’s diet.