Honeycomb slice

Yummmmmmmm.

Honey is pretty much perfect, as far as foods are concerned.  It's basically nothing but energy, if kept properly it will never spoil, and it is tasty as anything.

As with most food products, there is an almost infinite amount of information readily available about the history, consumption, production, and use of honey.  Because this wealth of information would be impossible (not to mention insane) to try and digest, I have broken it down into a top ten of interesting honey facts, dishes, and uses.

1.  Because of its low water activity, honey is safe from most microorganisms.

2.  Made by layering phyllo dough with chopped nuts and honey (or sugar syrup, but for the purposes of this blog, honey), baklava is one of the widest spread pastries that uses honey.  I like to make mine with pecans and cloves and cinnamon, but I just found out that in Iranian baklava the nut mixture is spiced with cardamom and now I need that.

beeeeeeeeees!

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

3.  This is an easy one, but the more you think about it (and know about it) the weirder and more mind-blowing it is.  Honey is made by bees.  Insects!  Little, buzzing, leggy, winged, stinging creatures make one of the oldest and most widely used foods in the entire world.  First of all, doesn't making honey seem a little too complex for an animal with a brain almost too small to be seen with the naked eye?  Second of all, can you even imagine the looks that the first person got who ate honey?  Like, "Hey man, what are you munching on?"  "Oh, you know, just some weird sweet gloop made by that hive of dangerous bugs."  "...Cool..."

4.  Going back to the fact that honey inhibits the growth of microorganisms, it was also widely used in classical and medieval times as a treatment for minor wounds and injuries.  Because what's better than bleeding?  Being sticky and attracting bugs and bleeding, obviously!  But seriously, honey was a medicine in olden times that actually worked.  That's pretty amazing in and of itself.

5.  Honey is widely used in savory foods as well!  One of the most popular ways is as a glaze on various meat dishes.  Honey goes particularly well with pork and chicken, often with fruit or with olive oil and spices as a marinade or in sauces.

6.  In a typical environment, bees will forage at almost any flowering plant that is within range of their hive, so the honey produced is a mixture of nectars from all those plants.  There are ways, however, of ensuring (or at least maximizing the chances) that the nectar will come from only one kind of flower and thus produce a pure 'varietal' of honey.  There are (apparently) over 300 varietals available in the USA alone, but most are uncommon or rare.  The most widely used and popular are Clover and Orange Blossom, but others that are well known are Blueberry, Buckwheat, and Tupelo.  (I really want to try Blueberry honey now.)

punkbread

Breads are the best place for pumpkin. Yes. With Honey.

7.  Just as honey is one of humanity's oldest foods, mead, an alcoholic beverage made by adding water and other ingredients to honey and allowing it to ferment, is one of the oldest if not the oldest alcoholic drink.  Like most important agricultural icons, mead features heavily in the mythologies of several cultures.  Vessels containing the remnants of mead have been found in China dating from approximately 2000 B.C. and descriptions of mead are found in the Rigveda which dates from approximately 1700 B.C.  A Spanish Roman, Columella, gives a recipe for mead in his De re rustica (Of things Agricultural).  The entirety of the recipe is basically, "Mix honey and water and let it sit."  He was a man who valued simplicity.

8.  Honey is also one of the most wide spread food stuffs.  Humanity uses honey from every subspecies of honey bee across their entire native range (not to mention the Americas, where true honey bees did not occur naturally.  Native North and South Americans did (and do) harvest honey from small, stingless bees native to the continents, however.)

9.  Honey is a popular sweetener for tea drinkers, but honey is also great in a variety of other beverages.  Try sweetening lemonade or other fruit-based cold drinks with it!  The results are usually more complexly flavored and mellower than drinks sweetened with white sugar.

10.  Just in time for pumpkin season!  Here's a recipe for Honey Pumpkin Bread which sounds bomb.

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