the miracle of honey

THE MIRACLE OF HONEY, by Dr Penny Stanway: 

  • Explains how honey can aid health, home and beauty.

  • Has original honey-containing recipes.

  • Is available as a book and an ebook.

 

Honey is made by honeybees to feed themselves. In ancient times it was considered a food of the gods, a symbol of wealth, health and happiness and even an elixir of immortality. The Old Testament promised the Israelites ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Egyptian doctors used honey-containing remedies 5,000 years ago. Mohammed claimed it was a remedy for every illness. And Hindus use it as one of the five foods they offer in worship or welcome. The word ‘honey’ comes from ‘ghoneg’, Hebrew for ‘delight’. Honey is also known as ‘the food of love’.

 

A 100-million-year-old bee was recently found preserved in amber. We know people ate honey many thousands of years ago but they have probably done so for much longer. They began by collecting honey from wild bees’ nests, then progressed to keeping bees. Beekeeping was especially popular in Europe and so common in ancient Britain that it was called ‘the land of honey’. At first, honey was the only sweetener other than date, fig or maple syrup. Alexander the Great brought sugar cane from India to Greece in the 4th century BC. But only the rich could afford this ‘honey reed’ until the mass cultivation of sugar cane and sugar beet began in the 18th century. As sugar became more affordable, honey became less important.

 

Today, honey consumption is greatest in Greece at 1.62kg (3lb 5oz) per person per year, and lowest in Hungary at 0.18kg (6oz). In Canada it is 0.78kg (1lb 11oz), Australia 0.6kg (1lb 4oz), the UK 0.59kg (1lb 5oz), the US 0.58kg (1.3lb) and China, 0.2kg (6oz). In contrast, many consumers eat vastly more sugar. For example, the average person in the US consumes more than 70kg/156lb of sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup, each year - which is an awful lot of ‘empty calories’.

 

About 85 percent of global honey production is used as 'table' honey, the rest goes to the food industry for bakery, confectionery and breakfast cereals, for example. There’s a small market for honey in the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries.

 

Honey’s colour, consistency, fragrance and flavour vary according to its nectar and honeydew sources and types of processing. Multifloral and blended honeys are most common but consumers increasingly pay a premium for monofloral, raw or organic honey and there is growing interest in darker, stronger-tasting honeys. Because just as wine or olive-oil aficionados delight in the differences between wines or oils from different seasons, producers, and varieties of grape or olive, so too do honey lovers enjoy different honeys.

 

But many honeybees are dying, possibly because of pesticides (such as neonicotamides), wildflower losses and bee malnutrition. Hopefully, with care and research, our supplies of honey - and, most important, the pollination of food and other crops by honeybees - will become more secure.