I have always had a penchant for honey; it is one of nature’s great gifts of food. The ancients revered it both to eat and to treat ailments. They had to compete with other animals to forage it and it also became one of our first boozy drinks with yeast from tree barks converting the sugars to alcohol and hey presto the brain was fired up and there was no stopping the earliest warriors charging at the enemy, human or otherwise. Honey wine or Mead has been made worldwide since antiquity so it was not a secret even back then. It’s where we get the word honeymoon from after they downed buckets of it at ceremonial feasts. They make an excellent one in Bunratty where I once went to see it being made.
In these climate crisis days the bees are in danger of disappearing and we need them badly for the whole ecosystem and native bees themselves are in trouble with all our bad practice to the environment. Ireland has always been a great producer of honey historically, the monks had it sussed and brought the skills around Europe along with cheese making. Now there are apiaries or farms across Ireland, the word is from Latin for honey bearer ironically. Now you will see various types and brands of honey on the shelves and when you see a jar for a couple of Euros which will also say made with non EU honey then don’t touch it if you want your honey to really be of benefit to your health and not just as a food.
The cheap jars are not the same as the artisan produced pure honey, just like say wine for example it will really have the taste of its “terroir” or area it has come from and the specific terrain, plants, flowers and climate the bees had at their disposal that will then show up in the exquisite flavour. If you want to have real five star nectar then buy direct from producers or farmers markets. I have a few friends and colleagues around the country that make absolutely fantastic honey and I get given a few jars every year from them that get me through without having to buy any of the commercial honey.
It certainly does the job in a hot whiskey when there are winter sniffles never mind the pleasure of just smearing on hot buttered toast. For other uses though it is so versatile. Just a small teaspoon does wonders for any speakers or singers as a natural lubricant for their throat. In cooking it is a wonderful ingredient. It is the ultimate sweetener as it is pure sugar so for even a cup of tea it is far superior to any manufactured sugar. It works well in a dressing for salads. In sauces it is excellent too especially for meat and for the likes of glazing a breast of duck or chicken. Drizzled on vegetables like carrots or parsnips it caramelizes them beautifully. In desserts it lends itself to many uses from cakes, biscuits and bars to ice cream, tarts and fruits and of course honeycomb itself. Therefore you should make room for it in your diet somehow every day, even if just on a yogurt or cereal.
Nutrition wise it is superfood, a powerhouse of antibacterial and antifungal properties. Raw honey has serious immune boosting ability; it’s good for the digestive system and blood. It rehydrates and is excellent for chest and breathing problems and is long known for healing wounds and burns. So what is not to like about it yet it is not as popular as it should be. In this day and age when fast food is really under the microscope as to how damaging it is and we know it, then there is no excuse for not going back to slow or natural foods and they do not come more natural than honey.
The bees want to produce it and to be kept busy and survive and we would like to survive too so if you have none in your house then make a beeline for somewhere that sells the real honey and get stuck into it and you will be buzzing about with a whole new gusto.