Bees have been around for millions of years - they were fully developed in their present form long before modern mammals had evolved.
Honeybees are the most important producers of honey. They gather nectar from flowers and plants and carry it to the hive or nest. Other worker bees then take over, preparing it for storing by adding enzymes. (Water evaporates away and this, together with the action of the enzyme, turns the nectar to honey.)
Did you know?
- Bees can fly for up to six miles, although one or two is more common.
- Bees collect pollen and nectar in the spring when most plants are in bloom.
- Once they have collected the pollen and nectar, they process and store honey in honey combs in the beehive.
- Honey can be used to treat sore throats and coughs and even cuts and burns
Honey has long been recognized as a natural remedy and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. It has antiseptic properties and can be used as a remedy for ailments from sore throats to burns and cuts.
- For a soothing drink for sore throats, mix honey with the juice of half a lemon, add boiling water and stir.
- If you're feeling low, try a spoonful of honey as a pick-me-up. The fructose and glucose in honey are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Honey in Cooking
You can use honey in cooking instead of sugar. Because it is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less.
- If you are experimenting with honey in a recipe, try replacing half the sugar with honey as the flavour can be very strong.
- Honey is hygroscopic (meaning it attracts water) so it is good for baking cakes as it keeps them moister for longer. Look on our recipe pages for some delicious recipes using honey.
What gives honey its flavour?
Honey is produced all over the world, from the heat of the tropics to the crisp cold of Scandinavia, Canada and Siberia. The warm climate of equatorial countries allows honey to be produced for most of the year, whilst beekeepers in Finland have a short season of just 2-3 weeks each year! The distinct aroma, flavour and colour is determined by the type of flower from which the bee collects the nectar. Some honey closely mimics the characteristics of the herb or tree whose flower the bee has visited, such as Orange Blossom and Lime Blossom, or Rosemary and Thyme.
Most honey comes from bees foraging on many different floral sources, and are known as polyfloral. However some plants provide enough nectar during their short flowering season, and are so irresistible to the local bee population, that a hive can yield honey from one single type of flower. This honey, known as monofloral, is keenly sought by beekeepers.
Here in Britain, honey is produced primarily for the local market. With over 35,000 beekeepers throughout the country harvesting honey from Apple Blossom, Cherry Blossom, Hawthorn, Lime Blossom, Dandelion, and the more popular and commercially viable Borage and Heather; an excellent range of different honey types are available on our own doorstep. The beekeeper also plays an important role in the pollination of fruit crops, and he travels for miles with his bees in a season to help pollinate plants and trees that produce the fruit we see in our supermarkets.
Unfortunately production in Britain is limited due to the unpredictable climate in this country. In a normal year around 4,000 tonnes is produced in Britain, but we consume over 35,000 tonnes per year spread on bread, in cereals, in baking and cooking, or simply by the spoonful! Fortunately, this demand is met thanks to areas of the world with longer production seasons, and a surplus of honey available to trade. This also introduces us to a whole new range of aromas and exotic flavours from different parts of the world.
Nothing is ever added or taken away from honey