Thursday, September 1, 2011

Honey - Food of the Gods

Originally published July 12, 1984

Romans and Greeks referred to honey as “food fit for the Gods.”

The Old Testament describes the ideal living place as one “flowing with milk and honey.”

It is thought that the first honeybees were probably native to southern Asia. They were introduced into New England sometime between 1638 and 1640 (the Indians called the honeybee “the white man’s fly”). Swarms of honeybees escaped and established hives in the wilderness. Along with ordinary wild bees which were native to this continent but produced no honey.

The color of honey will vary according to its botanical source. Different plants give honey their own particular flavors, and names, as the bees use the nectar from those plants to make their syrupy contribution to man’s diet.

While American honeybees use as their raw material mostly the nectar of clover and alfalfa, the bees of other countries have varied tastes. So do their honeys.

Bavarian pine-blossom honey is thick and strong. Norwegian honey is a sparkling variety full of tiny bubbles. Acacia honey from Hungary is often regarded as the world’s finest, but it has many rivals for that honor. France’s rosemary is also thought of as one of the finest. Julius Caesar thought that the rosemary honey from Narbonue was the best and he mentioned it in his dispatches from Gaul. However the wild thyme honey from Mount Hymettus was reportedly favored by the gods on Mount Olympus.

There is lotus honey from India and eucalyptus honey from Australia. There are black honeys from Brazil, snow-white honeys from Siberia, dogwood honeys from Chile. There is black locus honey from Italy, lolitza honey from Mexico, coffee-tree honey from Guatemala, Buckwheat Abbey moorland heather honey from England, Scotland, Holland and Norway.

Some unusual American honeys are orange-blossom from Florida, raspberry and strang buckwheat from New Jersey, chewy dandelion from Colorado, and tupelo from the swamps of Florida  just to name a few.

When we were all children (although we were not all children at the same point in history) we were probably spoon-fed some honey and lemon juice upon the first indication that a cold was in the offing. Just a simple cough or sneeze and Mom was Johnny-on-the-spot with a tablespoon of honey.

It was Mom’s custom to keep a large five- or ten-pound jar of honey in the pantry for use in cooking many of the family favorites. We used it on toast or bread (yesterday’s fast food), as a sweetener with our morning ration of oatmeal (which was a must on cold mornings), as a basting sauce for ham or pork and it was often an ingredient in desserts.

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