"These utterly unique honeys rank as the best I have ever tasted. American Tupelo, Kiwi Manuka, Australian Jara, Scottish Heather, and Tasmanian Leatherwood, move over! I no longer have any time for my Greek Thyme!! So completely deep, and exotic, are the kaleidoscopic flavour profiles these Portuguese honeys present, my sweet tooth has abandoned ice cream, chocolate, and hard-candy for a clearly superior force. As a wine writer, and long-time collector, I recognise an exemplary palate when I taste the evidence. Well done, Wild about Honey, don't ever become civilised!!! "Dominic.
Earlier this summer I had the chance to attend the first of a three part honey sensory analysis course conducted in Bologna. ( I know it sounds like a jaunt, but trust me it was back to school and nose to the grindstone). Over 4 days an international group of beekeepers and honey professionals were thoroughly immersed in the world of honey. A fellow attendee, Beekeeper, Peter Lewis, Chief Hives & Honey Steward at the Great Yorkshire Show, as invited and appointed by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.Pennines, penned this wonderful article which captures those 4 days perfectly.
One of the things I often encounter when talking to shop owners or retailers is "we only do local honey.....and Manuka"
When I ask about why this is, I mostly get told that they want to support local beekeepers, local honey is good for hay fever and that everyone wants Manuka honey because it is good for you.
Hmmmmmm, I feel that this picture is a little incomplete and a slightly wider perspective may be helpful.
Firstly, I am fully supportive of local beekeepers (I personally support five who are all local to within 20 kilometers of me) and that everything that promotes good Apiculture, bee populations and raw honey production is a GOOD THING. Owing to the mistakes of monoculture and industrial farming methods, we have manged to wipe out many of our pollinators through the use of insecticides and pesticides and have left the humble honeybee to shoulder the burden of pollination for us. A cursory look at a list of the foods honeybees pollinate for us reveals this amazing statistic.(According to the U.N. report, of the 100 crop species that supply 90 percent of the world's food, bees pollinate more than 70 percent )
So the next time you eat an orange, squeeze a lemon, eat an almond or peach, raspberry, beets, buckwheat, broad bean, avocado or any of the staggering number of other foods on the shelf of your health food shop or supermarket, a honeybee somewhere in the world made that possible. We've often heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein, that were the bees to disappear we would follow in four years. It does seem to have a ring of truth about it.( It is also shameful and alarming that the latest EU move to ban a certain class of systemic insecticide know as neonicotinoids shown to be demonstrably harmful to honeybees was blocked by the UK govt thanks to industry lobbying. .. worth a whole post in its own right)
Last year was a tough year for honey producers. The inclement weather has made it very tough to produce honey and the added horror of massive environmental stresses is decimating honeybee populations. Last year the US had the smallest honey production year on record only 55,000 tonnes and record loss of bee populations.
Should we cut down food miles where possible ? Should we support local food producers and our local economies ? Of course we should, I doubt most people apart from the most rabid neo-liberal globalists would suggest otherwise. But How Local is the World we live in ? If we confine ourselves to eating and consuming only foods and products indigenous to our environment or country we might find that our diets get very, very simplified, (not to mention more expensive). We live in a massively interdependent world, we rely on fuel imports, food imports, financial imports, raw material imports, the list goes on and on. I think what I'm gently suggesting here is that we need our bee populations Everywhere to thrive and that there is no room for parochialism or ideology here. So to buy sustainably produced Raw Honey from good beekeepers is a vital thing and to dismiss all honey which is neither local nor Manuka is not doing ourselves or food security any favours. Honey is the cash crop which allows beekeepers to keep bees. When we dismiss, our beautiful Iberian and Portuguese monofloral raw honeys because they are "not local" we undermine our own food security. I think there's room for all us, in fact I'd venture to say we are all vital for the health and survival of each other.
As a long time chronic Hay-fever sufferer, I am well acquainted with utterly disabling and misery inducing symptoms.
I have tried homeopathic remedies, with varying degrees of success, dietary cures, nasal washes, barrier sprays and often resort to powerful antihistamines just to get by when i need to function, but in truth antihistamines are powerful drugs and I don't care to keep ingesting them and don't want their effects on my brain, bladder, liver, kidneys or gut by prolonged use.
(I once made myself an effective homeopathic remedy from grass pollens when i had manged to identify the local grasses which were causing my problems. but this method requires identifying exactly which pollens are aggravating you. Where i lived in Northern New Mexico, there were only three, so that made it easy. )
I've met quite a few people now who have told me how local honey has helped their Hay-fever.(rhinitis). The theory or claim is that pollens from the locale are collected by honeybees, make it into the honey and effectively act a bit like a vaccine or homeopathic remedy perhaps.( I don't doubt the anecdotal evidence of people, what i question is the reasons they give.)
The only problem with this theory is that it is probably incorrect. The reason being, that wind-borne pollens from trees and grasses are chiefly responsible for hay fever not insect borne pollens. These grass pollens and tree pollens are not pollinated by bees.
Raw honey is a wonderful medicine and a mild pre and probiotic effect and will promote your overall health and is very healing for gut disorders or even soothing a throat sore from sneezing.. It does promote overall health, regulates blood sugar and assists in gut health, which would all be helpful. There are good reasons in chinese medicine too why honey should help. ( and these are only some of the things we know).
So it looks like raw honey does work for Hay-fever, just probably not in the way we think. What I can say is that eating only local honey has no greater benefit for Hay-fever than eating any other raw honey. Its benefit is probably more to do with the constituents of that particular raw honey and how its used. I don't think a teaspoon a day is going to do it but it's really up to you to experiment with dosages and what works for you.
A parting question to ponder. Do you only get hay fever when you are in your home environment ? or do you get it wherever you happen to be even whilst travelling ? So if you do, why would local honey honey be the answer to your hay fever, if you get the same symptoms whilst travelling ? It's worth considering, but myths are hard to dispel, especially when some are invested in perpetuating them...
Lastly below is a letter I received from a regular customer in the south of England, which is a striking testimonial about the raw carob honey and its effects on her Hay-fever.
PS We only have 20kg left...