What is it? Excellent question. We’re talking about the pollen produced by flowers that bees gather and take back to the hive, packing it into the cells of the honeycomb. They then add nectar, enzymes, fungi, bacteria and other organisms that transform the pollen into compact nuggets, sometimes called “bee bread.”
How is it gathered? When bees collect nectar for honey, they coat their legs with pollen. The pollen is ‘delivered’ when they pass through a screen when returning to the hive; the screen gently scrapes the pollen off their legs and into a tray for collection.
Ummm…and we eat it? Apparently, yes! Considered one of those superfoods we’re always hearing about, bee pollen is full of nutrients which make it a great strength builder and food for the brain. If you’ve ever considered signing up for the Olympics, you and bee pollen will become good friends, as athletes make it a regular part of their diet when they are going for the gold.
What does it taste like? Well, unsurprisingly, it has quite an exotic floral flavor. It is certainly not an unpleasant taste, but if you’re not into eating flowers, you can sprinkle it on a bowl of fruit or cereal. It also works well in soups, salads and smoothies. Alternatively, you can avoid the whole ‘natural state’ version of it and take it in capsule form.
You say it has health benefits? Yes indeedy. It is chock-full of enzymes, trace elements, folic acid, vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and B complex content. It can also help alleviate hay fever with daily consumption before the allergy season kicks in. Herbalists are huge fans of bee pollen and claim it can cure a number of ailments. Science is still on the fence, but then scientists are always cautious to commit.
On another note, there are whispers that it could assist with weight-loss, affecting metabolism and regulating hunger. That alone could be a reason to give it a whirl. What have you got to lose but pounds?
Any cautions I should be aware of? Seasonal allergies are one thing, but being allergic to bees, honey or any pollen-related products is another thing entirely. You could think you’re doing something healthy for yourself and end up in hospital. Absolutely check with a doctor before you start ingesting the stuff by the cupful if you fall into this category, as hives, swelling and anaphylaxis are no laughing matter. Others can assess their tolerance first by holding a few grains in their mouth. Start out with smaller amounts and gradually build up.
You might also think that with its folic acid nutrients it would be a great choice for pregnant women. Not so, sayeth the medical experts. Bee pollen is not safe for pregnant women, and those breastfeeding should avoid it as well.
How do I store it? When you buy the raw stuff, you’ll want to keep it cold, so the refrigerator or even the freezer are good choices. Do not keep it at room
temperature, particularly in the Caribbean, or it will lose its effectiveness pretty quickly.
How did this whole craze begin? Bee pollen, unlike some other supplements, has been around for ages. Hippocrates and Pythagoras both prescribed bee pollen for its healing properties. Native Americans wore pouches containing pollen around their necks on long journeys to eat so they could sustain a high level of energy. The Chinese, Romans and Egyptians all regarded pollen as a panacea. In China, it was first described well over 2,000 years ago as sweet tasting and neutral. To this day, China is still the world’s largest producer of pollen followed by the United States. So, it must be doing something right to sustain its popularity for that many centuries.