Jun 132010
 

Summer’s Spice: Beebalm Flower Infused Honey


It won’t be long now until the first brilliant purple flowers of Beebalm explode into bloom here in the Canyon. Locals call this gorgeous wildflower either Oregano de la Sierra or just Wild Oregano. Because yep, it tastes spicy and rather Oregano-like. The botanical name of this particular species is a bit long, being Monarda fistulosa var. menthaefolia, but really, any Monarda species will work just fine for most medicinal, culinary and other uses. The specific actions will, however, vary with the exact flavor and impression of the particular plants you work with.

There can be quite a bit of taste variation through the genus of Monarda, all are aromatic but some veer more toward the sweet end of the taste spectrum while others are definitely most appropriately called spicy. Our own wild Beebalm certainly has the capacity to make your eyes water and to elicit surprised yelps from the sensitive mouths of those who didn’t quite believe me when I said it was hot. There’s also often a buttery or oily aftertaste, a smooth slickness left on the tongue after ingestion of a leaf. This buttery effect doesn’t seem to be present in all species but is certainly an element of our local Beebalm.

This versatile plant has myriad uses in food, medicine and beyond and its one of my favorite herbs to talk about at length. It can be prepared a variety of ways, from the dried leaf to the tincture of the flowering tops to a sweet elixir of the flowers. What we’ll be talking about here though, is the preparation and use of the flower infused honey.

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Ingredients

  • About a pint jar full of recently harvested, roughly chopped Beebalm flowers
  • Appr. a pint of local raw honey

Directions

  1. Fill jar with Beebalm flowers
  2. Fill again with honey
  3. Stir with butter knife, chopstick or something similar to remove air bubbles
  4. Top off with honey
  5. Repeat until jar is full of flowers and honey
  6. Cover and allow to infuse for about 4 weeks

Now you have Beebalm flower infused honey. You can either warm it gently and strain it or use it as is. The flower bits taste good and make the medicine stronger but not everyone appreciates the texture.

Here are a few ways in which Beebalm honey can be helpful:

  • Burn/Wounds – An excellent dressing for wounds and burns, even severe or extensive burns. Honey itself is very healing and can help to prevent or resolve infections, but the blood moving properties of Beebalm speed healing, lessen pain and treat infection. I especially love a combo of  Evening Primrose (Oenothera)/Beebalm flower infused honey for moderate to severe burns or wounds.
  • Sadness & Stagnant Tension – Beebalm is a relaxant nervine. Being vary aromatic, it tends to be dispersive, moving energy and fluids up and outward. This makes it especially helpful for Kapha types with a tendency toward stagnation on a emotional level. It can help with sadness or tension that won’t seem to go away, especially when accompanied by a sense of stuckness and coldness. Be aware that it can make already spacey Vatas even more spacey (it’s that upward movement thing, when Vatas often need grounding, downward moving herbs). They’ll often like that euphoric feeling but it may or may not be helpful to them overall. Beebalm is also common ingredient in my formulas for those with seasonal affective disorder.
  • Tummy Troubles – Being an aromatic with an affinity for the gut (otherwise known as a carminative), Beebalm works very nicely on achy, bloated bellies where there’s a sense of stuckness and dampness. It also combines well with many bitters, which would also usually be indicated in such a scenario.
  • Sore Throat – Especially good for those achy, sorta scratchy sore throats. If there’s a sense of rawness, add in some Mallow root or Elm bark. If it’s more of a sharp, burning sort of sore throat, add in or substitute Rose petals.
  • Respiratory Infection/Congestion – I’ve often talked about Beebalm leaves used in an herbal steam for cold/damp respiratory infection and congestion but the honey also makes a great addition to many respiratory formulas.
  • Inflammation – Beebalm is great for many forms of systemic inflammation. I seem to use it where a lot of people would use Ginger, which makes sense with its spicy, diffusive taste. However, Beebalm is more variable in temperature (a la herbal energetics) and has a more complex mix of stimulant/relaxant effects. I also learned from West Viriginia Herbwife Rebecca Hartman that Beebalm can be mighty useful in addressing acute Lupus flareups, especially where there’s concurrent rheumatoid arthritis and the flareups manifest as acute joint inflammation and body pain. I usually work with the tincture/elixir for this purpose, but the hones seems to work pretty well too.
  • Infections – Those of you who’ve read my other writings on Beebalm will be familiar with how often I use it for many sorts of systemic or local infections. However, the sugar content of honey makes this particular preparation less than ideal for that use, so stick with the tea, elixir or tincture for that application.
  • Food – Well yeah, it just plain tastes good. Add it to nearly any hot tea, to all sorts of sauces and desserts or even just straight from the spoon (not the whole jar at once though, folks).

~~~

All Photos ©2010 Kiva Rose

  12 Responses to “Summer’s Spice: Beebalm Flower Infused Honey”

  1. Awesome info, Kiva! :)

    I have long admired beebalm, but have never grown any. I will check to see if it thrives in this area; if it is a native, I’ve never seen it in the South.

    I’m all inspired! :)

  2. Great post as usual, Kiva! For Danu: In the deep south, look for what’s called dotted horse mint = Monarda punctata. Many of the same qualities and also fairly “spicy” in flavor. The oldtimers called it ‘rignum, for it’s resemblance to oregano.

  3. I have always loved Beebalm, and have always grown it. Now I know why! Thank you!

  4. Thx Susan! :)

    I’ve made an itty bitty jar of honey infusion. LOL Can’t wait to taste it!

  5. Monarda….hot???
    Amazing, the different qualities demonstrated by the same plants grown in different areas! Maybe it’s due to different qualities of soils they’re grown in, or it’s due to different environmental factors or stressors, like climate extremes, I don’t know. I had trouble growing Monardas, I purchased package after package of seed from different vendors, to no avail…no sprouts resulted. But the flowers are so very beautiful, and I wanted some plants for the hummingbirds & to add to tea, having heard it gave tea an orange (bergamot) type flavor, (Monarda Didyma)–so I persisted. I finally found an herb supplier that carried it, and ordered three plants, which arrived in healthy condition, and I planted them in a damp area, thinking that since they were so obviously in the mint family, that they might survive growing in that particular patch of dirt that was so lethal to my other aromatic herbs, (lavenders, rosemary,etc.) because of it’s constant damp. I now have the first brilliant red, firecracker flower. I’ve watched it’s ongoing pollination over the last 3 days, (butterflies & hummingbirds, -no bees) and am hoping for viable seed. There’s no way there’ll be any flower harvest (for me) this year…but your article aroused my curiosity enough to go out and sample some of the drooping red stamens from the pollinated flower, (they’re dropping off anyway).
    Delicious, but nary a hint of heat. Unfortunately, neither any hint of citrus, (drat it!) A most definite oregano/majoram flavor, and a bit of honey like taste from the nectar filled base. Sadly, the plant’s leaf edges are also turning brown from probably the rust monardas seem to be susceptible to, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to attack these plants until they’re in flower, and nearing the natural end of their cycle. Thank you for posting your article and the picture of your beautiful Monarda, too, hopefully in a few years I’ll be able to try making monarda -honey.

  6. Cyra: next, take a taste of the rest of the flower.
    The red bits that fall off the M. didyma are exceedingly tasty.
    The rest of the flowering top is hot hot hot …

    • Will do that….Soon as the hummingbirds have stopped visiting them. I don’t want to scare them away. Their visits are the highlight of my mornings. Today there are three more flowers; by gently tilting one of my three plants downward, I was able to encourage lateral flowers to grow upwards from the stem…so there will be more than three flowers in all.
      Best of all, I believe I’ve found a purple flowered Monarda in the back garden, (M. Fistulosa) but I’m not 100% sure yet. The plant is 1/3 the height of the red variety, the leaves not as serrated, and almost blueish-green in color. Will see when it finishes blooming. I cannot wait til next year, when there will hopefully be more of both types, –and I can hopefully pick more than a sample…

    • Wow…again, what a difference between the two types of Monardas! Went out front to the red Monardas…and had a nibble. No heat, but a very aromatic, even bitter thyme/oregano taste,with a hint of menthol, and a slightly oily feel to the leaf.. Not particularly pleasant tasting, but probably good medicine, and I’m thinking it would be a good culinary spice, dried and rubbed on poultry. Then, just to satisfy my curiosity, I went out back, and sampled one of the green leaf-like calyxes of the purple flowered plant, that I’m now pretty sure is M. Fistulosa….That tiny, little bit of green was spicy-hot! When there are enough plants, I will be trying them in honey. The purple-flowered Monarda also has a more oregano/thyme-like taste along with that….bite, and the hint of menthol seems less than that of the red (M. Didyma) variety, though I can still taste it. Amazing!
      Thanks, Henriette.
      Wonder if the two types cross? I hope not, I really like the different colors of the two types!

  7. i made some monarda honey recently for the first time. it is so watery, i’m concerned about mold! i’ve made flower honeys before and never had this trouble. with the monarda, the honey just turns all runny. other flower honeys seem to maintain the thick syrupy texture of the honey. anyone else experience this, is this typical behavior of monarda? we’ve had a very dry year so i’m especially surprised.

    thanks, katie

    • Hmm, my Monarda honey has never really gone runny on me before. My Rose honey sometimes does and it’s usually fine… but when I’m in doubt I usually just add some brandy or scotch to it to help preserve it.

      What species of Monarda are you using, just out of curiosity?

      • well better late than never! got so busy i forgot to check up on this, thanks for your response kiva. i am using m. fistulosa for the honey. so far it seems ok despite the runny quality, maybe i will add a bit of brandy just to be safe. thanks and late summer blessings to you! katie

  8. Thinking of combining the antifungal benefits of both coconut oil and monarda for yeasty dermatitis type thing on the scalp. Any tips on infusing a solid oil like coconut with the monarda? (or just point me in the right direction)

    Thanks!!

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