Having been born and brought up in the country I am more used to natural food than most people are. In my opinion honey in the comb can be compared with milk straight from the cow. I had better make myself clear, I mean a proper cow such as a Guernsey or Jersey, not one of these black and white jobs! I’m glad I got that out of the way!
There are often bits of wild comb in the hive, perhaps in a super when we leave a frame out or leave a bigger gap than we should. During a nectar flow the bees build comb and fill it with honey. I think this makes really good eating and can’t be bettered for flavor. At extracting time there is often a similar opportunity. It is a foolish beekeeper who misses opportunities like that!
Wild comb like this is really only available to beekeepers or those close to them, but for a long time beekeepers have been able to produce comb honey in a number of ways.
Before the introduction of the honey extractor in about 1865, honey combs were either crushed and strained to get the honey out, or the combs were cut up so the honey could be eaten in the comb. Comb honey is still produced in reasonable quantities, but extracted honey is easier to produce and store, as well as being a consistent product for sale that modern people have been conditioned to demand.
Comb honey does vary somewhat, but in my opinion that is one of the attractions of it.
There are a number of ways comb honey can be produced. I will mention the three most common ones:-
Sections. These are where comb has been built in either square or round wooden or plastic containers. The honey is eaten direct from them. Sections are not easy to produce, so an alternative is to get bees to build combs in standard frames, then cut them up and put them into containers. Pieces of comb are cut and placed into standard honey jars, then filled with liquid honey, so you get both comb and liquid honey in the same jar.
With the passing of time I think comb honey has become less popular. Consumers have become used to pre-packed food that is the same wherever they buy it. Even amongst beekeepers there seems to be a reluctance by some to even try eating comb honey. I think this is a pity because I think they are missing a treat.
There is more beekeeping skill required to produce comb honey for sale so it looks good. The selection of the colony to produce nice white cappings is important. There is little point in producing comb honey if it is going to granulate, so there is likely to be some waste, although granulated honey can be melted to liquefy it so it can be bottled.
It must be understood that comb honey is as natural as you can get it, with no chance of it being heated to retard granulation as you may get in liquid commercial honey. Being natural there is the chance of wax moth eggs that may hatch. For that reason i suggest putting comb honey in a domestic freezer for at least a week before packing.
Marketing of all honey is dealt with on the selling honey page.
I encourage beekeepers to try a little comb honey, even if only for their own consumption. It can make nice presents too!