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The 5 best honey in the world

Article source: honeyassociation.com

Exactly how long honey has been in existence is hard to say because it has been around since as far back as we can record. Cave paintings in Spain from 7000BC show the earliest records of beekeeping, however, fossils of honey bees date back about 150 million years! Its ‘magical’ properties and versatility has given honey a significant part in history:

The earliest record of keeping bees in hives was found in the sun temple erected in 2400BC near Cairo. The bee featured frequently in Egyptian hieroglyphs and, being favoured by the pharaohs, often symbolised royalty.

The ancient Egyptians used honey as a sweetener, as a gift to their gods and even as an ingredient in embalming fluid. Honey cakes were baked by the Egyptians and used as an offering to placate the gods. The Greeks, too, made honey cakes and offered them to the gods.

The Greeks viewed honey as not only an important food, but also as a healing medicine. Greek recipes books were full of sweetmeats and cakes made from honey. Cheeses were mixed with honey to make cheesecakes, described by Euripides in the fifth century BC as being “steeped most thoroughly in the rich honey of the golden bee.”

The Romans also used honey as a gift to the gods and they used it extensively in cooking. Beekeeping flourished throughout the Roman empire. Once Christianity was established, honey and beeswax production increased greatly to meet the demand for church candles.

Honey continued to be of importance in Europe until the Renaissance, when the arrival of sugar from further afield meant honey was used less. By the seventeenth century sugar was being used regularly as a sweetener and honey was used even less. As bees were thought to have special powers, they were often used as emblems:

Pope Urban VIII used the bee as his emblem.

The bee was the sign of the king of Lower Egypt during the First Dynasty (3,200BC).

Napoleon’s flag carried a single line of bees in flight, and his robe was embroidered with bees.

In the third century BC, the bee was the emblem used on coins in the Greek city of Ephesus.

The bee was the symbol of the Greek goddess Artemis. The bee was the emblem of eros/cupid.

So where does honey come from?

Bees produce honey as food stores for the hive during the winter months when flowers are not in bloom and therefore there is little nectar available.

The nectar collected by the honey bees from flowers and plants is carried to the hive or nest and is then passed to worker bees, who prepare it for storing by adding enzymes.

As the nectar is transferred to the wax storage chambers, water is evaporated away, and it is this process, combined with enzyme activity that converts the nectar into honey.

A hive only needs 20-30 lb of honey to survive an average winter which means that the extra honey can be harvested. A strong colony can produce 2-3 times more honey than they need.

What is honey exactly?

Honey is a complex mix of:

(80%) natural sugars
(18%) water
(2%) minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein

Of honey’s 80% natural sugar content, around 70% is made up of fructose and glucose. The balance of these two sugars determines whether a honey is clear or set. Both types are equally pure and additive free.

What is the difference between clear and set honey?

The higher the fructose content, the longer the honey will remain liquid. Some honeys contain more glucose than fructose and, therefore, are very likely to crystallise swiftly. There is no difference in the taste or nutritional value of these two states. Honey can be restored to a liquid state by standing it in warm water for an hour or so.

How many honey varieties are there?

Bees can fly up to six miles, although one or two is more common. Within this radius, depending on the flower variety, they can gather nectar from many different types of flower (polyflora honeys) or from one kind of flower (monofloral honeys).

Besides classification by floral source, honeys can also be described according to geographical origin, from a particular country or region. This is because a honey of the same flower type will still vary from country to country because of difference in climate and soil; a polyfloral honey from one country may have a distinct combination of plant source to give a unique flavour.

Monofloral: Honey made primarily from a single source including: Acacia, Pine, Orange Blossom, Lime, Rosemary, Thyme, Sunflower, Clover, Leatherwood, Eucalyptus.

Polyflora: Honey made from the nectar of many different flowers.

Blends: Combinations of different types of honey blended to achieve a particular taste rather like a blended tea or whisky.

Early Honey History

Honey is as old as history is itself. One of the earliest evidence of honey harvesting is on a rock painting dating back 8000 years, this one found in Valencia, Spain shows a honey seeker robbing a wild bee colony. The bees were subdued with smoke and the tree or rocks opened resulting in destruction of the colony.

It is difficult to appreciate in today’s world of convenience, high tech wizardry, junk food and sugar substitutes, the value of honey. Humans have eaten it, bathed in it, fixed their wounds with it and traded with it since history was recorded. Archaeologists discovered honey comb in Egypt that had been buried with the pharaohs in their tombs, the honey was preserved and was still eatable.

In the old testament, the land of Israel was often referred to as the “land flowing of milk and honey”. God nourished Jacob with honey from the rock, and gave Israel fine flour, olive oil and honey. John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. Honey is mention in the scrolls of the Orient, the Talmud and Koran.

The Romans used honey to heal their wounds after battles. Hannibal, a great warrior gave his army honey and vinegar as they crossed the alps on elephants to battle Rome. During the 10 century, the Kings and Queens of England had fermented honey wine (Mead), the Edmeades family produced some of these.

Honey has been used for many thousands of years, in fact most mans history has references to it. Not surprising though, it is an organic natural sugar, has no additives, easy on the stomach, if stored correctly will have an almost indefinite shelf life and easily adapted to cooking processes