Honey is, as they say, the nectar of the Gods. It is an amazingly complex, not to mention delicious substance that has not only pharmacological properties but preservative ones as well. When I was a child, my mother kept a jar in the cupboard filled with garlic cloves soaking in honey. The honey kept the cloves from spoiling, and the garlic subtly flavored the honey. When we had a cough or sore throat, out came the honey pot and in went a teaspoon of the “medicine”, which was both helpful and delicious. Some people claim that raw honey will alleviate allergy symptoms. It has anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-biotic properties, and contains several known anti-oxidants. It has been used topically for thousands of years in the treatment of wounds and ulcers. As a preservative, honey can keep foods from spoiling for many years if kept in a dry and cool environment such as a root cellar.
We keep two small hives that provide us, on a good year, with several gallons of delicious honey that we use both in the kitchen and as gifts during the holidays. Family and friends tell us they wait anxiously for Christmas, hoping for a new jar of the sweet nectar for their pantry. Keeping bees is not difficult to learn. With a good book and, if you are lucky, the advice of an experienced apiarist, it is fairly easy to purchase everything you need online, including the bees themselves. Now is the time to order hives and get started for a good honey crop in the fall. Once the initial investment is made, they don’t take up much space and only require a minimum of time.
Although I believe honey to be a healthful and natural sweetener, it should be always used in moderation. It is primarily made of simple sugars, and creates an immediate biochemical release of insulin, as well as the resulting “sugar crash”. Think of our ancestors before the advent of agriculture. How often did our wandering predecessors come across a hive filled with wild honey? Use honey as if it were as valuable and precious as gold. Furthermore, honey is not suitable for infants, as it can contain yeasts and bacterium not suited to the newborn digestive system. It’s best to buy honey from a local source, preferably wild. Look for it at your farmers market. When shopping for honey in a grocery store, look for raw honey that has not been pasteurized or blended.