Buying Bee Pollen

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“High-quality, fresh pollen should consist of soft, pliable granules that have been neither pasteurized nor heat treated.  The highest-quality bee pollen is frozen as its collected, and stored frozen until it’s packaged.

 Fresh, raw pollen is in fact fresh produce, and it needs to be treated as such.  Just like fresh fruits and vegetables, pollen is intrinsically variable, perishable and subject to mishandling.  The granules you buy should smell and taste flowery and tart or sweet, similar to raw honey.

In general, the best bee pollen comes from wild plant sources; second best (but still excellent) originates from organic farming areas.  Canadian and US manufacturers specializing in full-line bee products provide the freshest, highest-quality pollen.  And southwestern US desert plateau bee pollen has consistently proven to be the top choice (mesquite trees, among other plants, are the major source of this pollen.

 Imported pollens, on the other hand, are subject to over-drying, sterilization and longer storage durations.  Oven-dried and sterilized pollens don’t have active enzymes; they can also lose vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids and phytochemicals, and may undergo changes in protein structure.  Excessive heating or dehydration of granules make them hard and flinty, and can render a slightly bitter taste.

 Some processing of pollen is necessary because pollen grains have two tough outer coats surrounding the nutritive contents.  Bees’ digestive systems are designed to cope with these coats; however, the systems of humans, cats and dogs are not.  Consequently, the better manufactured gently crack pollen before it’s packaged.

 Granules may also, of course, be encapsulated, pressed into tables or chewable wafers, or finely ground for use in foods and beverages.  Such processing may or may not damage nutritional qualities, depending on the manufacturer.

 Numerous research studies have shown that all beehive products can become contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and environmental pollutants.  Fortunately, however, bees are sensitive to pollution levels.  The queen bee’s health apparently declines when the hive is exposed to more than it can handle; this fact limits the success of apiaries in heavily contaminated areas.

 If you happen to be mildly allergic to bee pollen, or if you don’t like the quality of a product, don’t give up-send it back to the manufacturer with a letter indicating that you wish to try a different lot number.  It may be that you’re sensitive to just one component of the pollen blend.

 Pollen should be stored in a dark, dry environment.  When purchased in bulk it can be frozen for long-term storage.  When sold in plastic bags, pollen should always be stored under refrigeration.  Sealed containers should also be refrigerated after opening.  Never add liquids or moist foods to stored pollen, and don’t dip damp fingers or utensils into it.”  (Broadhurst p.21, 2000)

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Spencer Murphy

Spencer Murphy

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