Honey is made by bees from the nectar they collect from flowers. Viscous and fragrant, it's a natural sweetener and can be used just as it is to spread on bread or toast, or added to sweet and savoury dishes.
The flavour, colour and consistency vary, depending on the flower(s) the nectar was collected from and the production method used - as a general rule, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour.
Honey is available clear and runny, thick and opaque, in a honeycomb or as a chunk of cut honeycomb suspended in runny honey.
All year round.
Choose the best honey
There are many different flavours of honey. Some of the most commonly available honeys with delicate tastes and aromas include clover (mainly from Britain), orange blossom (from the US, Mexico and Europe), lemon blossom (Mexico), acacia (China, Canada, Europe) and leatherwood (New Zealand).
More intensely flavoured honeys include Scottish heather, eucalyptus (Australia and the Mediterranean), Manuka (New Zealand), lavender (France), Hymettus (Greek, named after the mountain of the same name). Runny honey is easier to cook with.
Honey doesn't need any preparation. If clear honey becomes cloudy (as a result of the natural process of crystallisation) just stand the jar in a bowl of very hot water for 15 minutes or so, or give it a blast in the microwave (with the lid removed, if it's made of metal) for around 30 seconds.
In a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Comb and cut comb honey will last for around six months.
Add to marinades, salad dressings or smoothies. Drizzle over Greek yoghurt or fruit salads. Pour over soft cheeses and grill. Use to add sweetness and a moist consistency to baking.
Health benefits of honey
The health benefits of honey include the following:
- Sweetener: Sugar can be substituted with honey in many food and drinks. Honey contains about 69% glucose and fructose enabling it to be used as a sweetener.
- Energy Source: Honey is also used by many as a source of energy as it provides about 64 calories per tablespoon. One tablespoon of sugar will give you about 50 calories. Further the sugars in honey can be easily converted into glucose by even the most sensitive stomachs. Hence it is very easy to digest honey.
- Weight Loss: Though honey has more calories than sugar, honey when consumed with warm water helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. Similarly honey and lemon juice and honey and cinnamon help in reducing weight.
- Improving Athletic Performance: Recent research has shown that honey is an excellent ergogenic aid and helps in boosting the performance of athletes. Honey facilitates in maintaining blood sugar levels, muscle recuperation and glycogen restoration after a workout.
- Source of Vitamins and Minerals: Honey contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. The vitamin and mineral content of honey depends on the type of flowers used for apiculture.
- Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties: Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and hence it can be used as a natural antiseptic.
- Antioxidants: Honey contains nutraceuticals, which are effective in removing free radicals from our body. As a result, our body immunity is improved.
- Skin Care with Milk and Honey: Milk and honey are often served together as both these ingredients help in getting a smooth soothing skin. Hence consuming milk and honey daily in the morning is a common practice in many countries.
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