Despite the fact that it’s essentially bee vomit (or perhaps because of it), honey is an amazing food.
It can also boost your immune system, enhance digestive health and soothe a sore throat….oh, and it tastes damn good too.
Like all sweeteners, however, honey should be taken in moderation and to get the most from your occasional taste, you have to make sure you’re buying the right kind.
A 2011 study by Food Safety News (FSN) found that more than 75% of honey sold in major grocery stores was not real honey at all, but rather a cheap imitation that had been ultra filtered and did not contain any pollen at all.
As if that weren’t bad enough, FSN suggested that most of this fake honey comes from China, where it may well have been contaminated with illegal antibiotics.
While your odds of getting decent honey are slightly improved by buying organic, the very best option is to procure it from a local source if possible. Raw, unprocessed honey is the smart choice because all those powerful antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes can be destroyed in the pasteurising process.
I just found a local supplier myself and was delighted to receive my very first jar of local, natural, raw honey at the weekend. While I go devour some (and send my thanks to the local bee community), here are some fascinating facts about the sweet superfood.
1. The ancient Egyptians used honey to embalm their dead. It was also a common offering to the fertility God, Min.
2. Our love affair with honey goes waaaay back – cave paintings, around 13,000 years old, depict beekeeping and the world’s oldest intact beehive is in Israel, it’s believed to be 3,000 years old.
3. The oldest honey ever discovered was found in Georgia and is over 5,000 years old. You could even try a mouthful because…
4…honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil, thanks to its low moisture content and high acidity (organisms can’t survive in it).
5. Alexander the Great was believed to have been entombed in a coffin full of honey. I can think of worse ways to meet your maker.
6. Honey can be used to make sweet, alcoholic beverages such as honey wine (or mead), which is made by fermenting a mixture of honey, water and yeast.
7. In 2012, the top three honey-producing nations were China, Turkey and Ukraine.
8. The honeybee is the only insect to produce food that is eaten by humans.
9. Beekeeping is illegal in many US cities (including Norfolk, Virginia) and only became legal in New York city in 2010.
10. The honeyguide is a tiny bird whose sole purpose in life is to lead honey badgers to beehives so they can feast on the delicious honey within. When the badger is done, the honey guide will swoop in and feast on the beeswax left over.