A Little Taste of Honey

A Little Taste of Honey

Take a look at Honey's storied history, yummy recipes, and its troubled future.

It’s okay to be scared of bees. They’re big, yellow, bugs, lots of ‘em have stingers, and they just love to show up in the middle of a picnic. But don’t hold too much against them, because bees give us something no one else can: honey.

Honey is a beehive’s main food source, the end result of the nectar collection bees do all day (part of the reason they show up at your picnic—to get at the flowers). There’s a reason ticked-off bees rush at you if you get near the nest: they know you’re either there for them or for their food source. It’s hard to blame them, since we’ve been harvesting their honey since ancient times. Mesolithic rock paintings in Valencia, Spain depict honey hunters gathering the sweet stuff 10,000 years ago. Everything from the Old Testament to Asian mythology couples honey with all things good and pleasant. Egyptians treated wounds with it; Greek women dipped their fingers in it for luck before entering a new home. It’s shown up in food, drinks, and other stuff since prehistory, and with good reason.

Flavor-wise, honey’s sweeter than ordinary sugar—a side effect of combining multiple sweet nectars—and it has a wealth of benefits sugar doesn’t. Put it in a baking recipe to preserve your food longer. Use it as a sweetener in tea to get more vitamins and antioxidants. Or just pour it over a fresh biscuit to see how darn good it can taste.

Sweeten Up Thinking of cooking with honey? A small amount of it makes these pork chops particularly delicious. Or you could try making some honey granola as a healthy snack. If you’re in the mood to bake, give honey zucchini bread or some apple/honey cake a shot. And don’t forget the honey-lime fruit salad, or the Ethiopian honey wine. For a particularly refreshing summer drink, look for Sprecher Root Beer—a delicious Milwaukee concoction that uses raw local honey in production.

Soak It In

Of course, honey has more to offer than just its taste. Ancient people used it to treat wounds because of its antibacterial properties, and everything from beautification of the living to preservation of the dead was handled with honey at one point or another. We really don’t recommend the preserving corpses thing, but give the beauty treatments a try with stuff like milk and honey lotion, foaming honey/vanilla bath, or rosemary honey conditioner. Beauty’s never been so delicious.

Endangered Insects But this sweet, succulent nectar of the gods…er, the bees…may soon be a precious commodity. With all the other rising costs out there—gas, airfare, video games—why is something as simple as honey so likely to jump? Simple: we’re running out of bees. It all ties into a mysterious phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees simply vanish en masse from their hives. CCD first loomed in America earlier this year (and it’s still the hardest-hit), but reports of missing bees are popping up all over Canada and Europe. No bees means no honey, and it has chilling implications for most of agriculture, too—who pollinates up to one-third of our produce, nuts, and livestock fees? That’s right: those buzzing honey bees. Given that pollination is a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s making people all over the place nervous. Way back when, Albert Einstein supposedly prophesized doom if the humble honey bee disappeared, giving mankind just four years to live. Maybe it’s not that bad, but the situation’s definitely serious.

How can you help? The jury’s still out on what’s causing CCD, but research points to several possible factors, including power lines, electromagnetic waves (i.e. from cell phones), and pesticides. Not much can be done by the average person about the first two, but you can absolutely help with the third. Support organic honey farmers like Volcano Island HoneyDutch GoldCarlisle Honey and Golden Acres Honey. While mainstream commercial beekeepers (the guys who use all the pesticides and other chemical gook) are reporting devastating losses—up to 90 percent in some areas—makers of organic honey haven’t lost a single bee. Their stuff’s a little pricier, but the taste is worth it. Plus, maybe if they lose some sales the big guys will learn a thing or two about poisoning their bees!

Sources: Common Ground

Wikipedia's entries on HoneySprecher Brewery, andColony Collapse Disorder

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