The other day when I opened my patio door, I heard the susurrus of wings that startled me. I quickly shut the door, but the murmuring sound got louder. Then, I spotted the trespasser — a black-and-yellow beauty that landed on the kitchen table. My fear of getting stung was quickly outweighed by my greater fear of killing one of our sweetest friends on Earth.
Honeybees are alarmingly vanishing into thin air due to a bizarre phenomenon that is starting to sting our global food supply. So, I gingerly slid the bee into a Mason jar and released it to the yard, where it could continue its vital work.
As I stirred a spoonful of golden honey into my morning cup of green tea, I turned my thoughts to this precious food source that is also on the brink of becoming endangered. It’s time to pay homage to our Herculean honeybees, and the precious gift they share with us.
Ancients revered honey for its rich store of nutrients and miraculous healing powers. For starters, it’s packed with mood stabilizing B6s, amino acids, bone-boosting calcium and zinc, electrolyte potassium, and blood-fortifying iron. Honey is antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-aging and soporific. It has also been known to heal wounds when applied topically and helps soften pesky wrinkles.
Dissolved in a cup of tea, it can help soothe scratchy throats, calm coughs and provide a liquid lullaby for restful sleep. It puts the skids on free radicals to keep the immune system humming, wards off cancer, stabilizes blood pressure, boosts heart health by lowering triglycerides, and cranks up digestion with its enzyme load. Its rare antioxidant pinocembrin even dials up brain function.
Where possible, buy single-sourced (from one country), unpasteurized, organic and raw honey. There are over 300 varieties worldwide, but here’s a list of my faves:
1. Thick, luxurious Manuka honey with warm nutty nuances harvested from New Zealand is one of the most nutrient-dense honeys in the world. Whether enjoyed as a rich elixir in warm drinks, a refreshing swig in chilled ones, or slathered on the face as a rejuvenating mask, Manuka imparts a more youthful complexion by amping up collagen production. It’s also linked to immobilizing bacteria that trigger gastric ulcers.
2. Delicate Clover honey ranging from pearly white to deep amber replaces sugar in many baked goods with buttery cinnamon notes, and balances tartness of yoghurts. Clover is good for everything from healing burns to thinning mucous to ease coughs.
3. Anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy Alfalfa honey produced mainly from our northern neighbors is light in color and flavor, while less sweet than clover. Drizzled on French toast, or blended in sassy sauces Alfalfa adds a touch of sweetness without a cloying aftertaste.
4. Dark robust honey from Ayurvedic Neem plants in Central India tackles allergies, assorted skin conditions, and oral and throat infections.
5. Delightful golden Acacia honey with clean fresh vanilla notes gathered from blossoms in Northern Italy pairs perfectly with goat cheeses, fresh fruits, and whole-grain breads. Acacia being low in sucrose and high in fructose doesn’t wallop the pancreas, making it a more desirable choice, especially for diabetics.
6. Orange Blossom honey with fresh citrus notes is an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, immune-boosting treat that adds a delicate flavor to both sweet and savory dishes.
7. Rich golden Avocado honey harvested from our California avo blossoms has buttery nuances with a bounty of minerals and vitamins for an invigorating facemask, or zesty glaze for chicken or fish.
8. As cold and flu season looms add Eucalyptus honey to your arsenal to destroy respiratory ails of all manners. Stir in a cup of hot tea, inhale the robust, therapeutic scent, and breathe freely again.
9. Buckwheat‘s bold flavor and deep color enliven everything from buckwheat pancakes and crepes to carrot cake and groats while giving an antioxidant oomph and good liver cleanse.
Recipe: Honey Apricot Roasted Turkey Breast
• Ingredients: 1 turkey breast, bone-in (about 2 1/2 pounds); 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil; 3 tablespoons apricot preserves; 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots; 1 tablespoon each of orange and lemon juice; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder; 4 teaspoons organic honey
• Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a saucepan, combine apricots, preserves, juices, ginger, garlic and honey. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside. Rub turkey with oil, season with salt and cayenne pepper. Roast it in an ovenproof dish or skillet for about 20 minutes. Pour sauce over breast, continue roasting until cooked through (about 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F). Garnish with chopped scallions.