The world's oldest sweetener is a boon for today's home cook.

Honey has been in kitchens since antiquity (Egyptians were cooking with it over 5,000 years ago), but there’’s a modern buzz surrounding the golden liquid. “We’’re seeing two big trends: the increase in varietal honeys, and the rise of local honeys,” says Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine.

Varietal honeys such as orange blossom, lavender, or sage are produced when bees collect nectar from a single flower. “Each has a unique flavor and color, the same way wines from different regions and different grapes are unique,” explains Flottum.

Rather than investing in Italian chestnut honey or French lavender honey, Flottum advises tapping into the growing number of local honeys. “It’’s just like going to the farmers’ market and buying local produce,” he says. “You’’re supporting a beekeeper and the quality is so much better.” (It’’s also the best way to be sure that bees are properly cared for in small populations. Visit honeylocator.com to find a producer near you.)

Honey keeps baked goods tender and gives them an amber hue. A touch of honey balances other flavors and lends richness without adding fat in dressings, sauces, and smoothies. Check out the following ideas, or play around with honey in your favorite recipes to see what new uses you can find for this time-honored sweetener.