By Debbie Rogers: Honey has got tremendous health benefits, specially Yemeni honey. The first records of honey go back to 8,000 years ago and perhaps is, one of the oldest superfood that we know of. I often describe Honey as ‘amber nectar’ or ‘black gold’. My earliest childhood memories include a glass of honey, lemon and hot water when we had a cold. We were given a spoonful of honey after having to swallow a particularly nasty cough medicine to take away the bitter taste. Although my childhood memories always associated honey with being illness and recovery, but it needn’t be that way – there’s so much more to honey than that. Think of a honey cake!
History of Honey
The first records of honey go back to 8,000 years ago with its depiction in cave paintings in Spain. Historians make reference to it being used in Georgia where it was packed to help people’s journeys into the afterlife. In ancient Egypt, it was used to sweeten up cooking and was also used to embalm the dead, and as an offering to the Egyptian fertility god. There has been spiritual and therapeutic usage in ancient India as well. Honey is also believed to have medicinal uses. In Hinduism, it is one of the five elixirs of immortality, while in the Jewish tradition, it is a symbol for New Year. Honey is referenced for it’s ability to provide sustenance in Buddhism and the Christian New Testament. In Islam, there is an entire chapter of the Qur’an called an-Nahl (the Bee) where Prophet Mohammad strongly recommends honey for healing purposes and as a nutritious and healthy food.
What is Honey?
Honey is the nectar from the herbs and flowers that grow wild in the fields and woods. The benefits of hundreds of herbs are carried in the form of nectar in the stomach of the bee where it is subtly altered by the bee’s digestive enzymes in ways that even modern science has been unable to explain. This process creates new compounds before the honey is regurgitated in the hive, concentrated by evaporation, and stored in honeycomb.
The aroma, taste and colour of honey are determined by the plants from which the bees have gathered nectar. Sunflowers, for example, give a golden yellow honey, clover gives a sweet white honey. Dark honey has a strong flavour and often has a high mineral content, while pale honey has a more delicate flavour.
Raw honey is one of nature’s richest super food sugar substitutes, containing over 80 different health-giving proponents. This unprocessed honey is pure, unfiltered and unheated, embodying the natural bouquet of flower pollination with a potent source of nutritional elements. All around the world, humans have for centuries, been using honey straight from the beehive.
Raw honey is loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and all B-Complex Vitamins are all found in honey. It also contains many minerals.
Raw Yemeni Honey
There are almost 12 of Yemeni honey produced, the most famous and expensive is from the Elb or Sidr tree – one of the trees mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Semi nomadic beekeepers gather twice a year to collect Sidr honey in the remote desert region of Hadramout in the South Arabian Peninsula.
Traditional beekeeping methods can still be seen in Yemen – use of small wood, cane or pottery hives with both stationary beekeeping, hives are placed in gardens or on house roofs. Nomadic beekeeping is also practised. The techniques of beekeeping and honey extraction have remained substantially the traditional ones, although modern methods have introduced machines and equipment.
Good Yemeni honey is so highly prized that it’s possession is considered as a status symbol. Being offered Yemeni honey when entering a Yemini home means that you are truly an honoured guest!
Nutritional Benefits of Honey
- Honey has a low glycemic index so is great for energy release during sports.
- Honey is used in beauty treatments and is a natural moisturiser.
Top Tip: To get the last drops of honey out of a honey jar, add a few slices of lemon to the jar, add boiling water and put the lid back on, Let the mixture sit for a while, shake gently and you have a perfect hot honey and lemon drink.
[This story has been written exclusively for FoodeMag dxb. Images provided by Balqees]