Don't be surprised if you see it popping up on local menus: Bee Pollen is this season's trending superfood. Here's what you need to know about it.
Let's start off by stating our purpose here, loud and clear. This piece was written to inform you about what Bee Pollen is, how to use it, where to find it in Metro Phoenix. We write about food; we are not scientists, nor are we doctors, nor are we wholeheartedly accepting of any Magic Bullet food trend that crosses our path.
Also, for the sake of everyone at hand, let's operate under the assumption that honeybees are magical creatures, and leave it at that.
So what is Bee Pollen, exactly?
Bee Pollen is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - it's pollen, collected and processed by honeybees. When a busy little bee goes out to do her duty, she gets covered in pollen. She combs the dusty spores from her body using unique brush-like appendages, and packs the powdery plant reproductive material into compartments on her hind legs called Pollen Baskets. The powdered pollen is continually compacted throughout the course of a bee's "shift," so to speak. By the time she returns to the hive at the end of the day, through an act of Honeybee wizardry, each pollen basket will contain one compact nugget (of "granule") of Bee Pollen.
So basically, it's condensed pollen, with a small amount of Bee Magic. Supporters of its use make all kinds of claims about what Bee Pollen is and what it isn't. Many claim that Bee Pollen is a great energy booster; others claim that it helps with seasonal allergies. But let's be real for a moment: the science supporting the health benefits of its consumption are at times a little iffy, at other times inconclusive, and at other times incomplete. But that doesn't mean that the stuff doesn't still taste good, or that (provided you're not pregnant, or allergic to pollen, bees, or honey) that you shouldn't try it. (If you are pregnant, or allergic to pollen, bees, or honey, you should probably pass. Again though, we are not doctors, just experts at finding food horror stories from probably unreliable sources on the interweb.)
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What we do know is this: Bee Pollen is generally very nutrient dense. But its nutritional value will vary by region, as this measure depends on the plant types indigenous to the bees' collecting area. It's a safe bet to say that the average protein content of Arizona Bee Pollen is greater than or equal to about 20%, and that the granules are, generally speaking, a good source of antioxidants.
But what about the flavor? Well, that varies by region too. Eating bee pollen is a completely unique experience; it's a little bit floral, a little bit sweet, and a lotta bit indescribable. And a little goes a long way. The folks at Arizona Honey Market recommend starting with about 8 granules a day for a week, then doubling this amount weekly until you are consuming about a teaspoon at a time. If you're not sure about it, try hiding a small amount in smoothie. If you're feeling more adventurous, you can sprinkle the granules on cereal, salads, or popcorn.
That brings us to local suppliers: lucky for us, Sonoran Desert bee pollen is fairly easy to come by. Arizona Honey Market retails the granules online; you can arrange to pick them up or have them shipped. Crockett Honey Company sells Bee Pollen at their Tempe store. Absolutely Delightful Honey also sells online and at just about every farmers market in town. These golden nuggets are yours for the taking; enjoy.