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As we all know, sugar is the central ingredient in most types of sweet or candy. When the word is mentioned, most people think of white granulated sugar but actually, honey is the oldest form of sweetener. The practice of honey-harvesting dates back many thousands of years as is pictured in a prehistoric cave painting thought to be around 10,000 years old. The drawing was discovered in 1919 near Valencia in the caves known as the Arana Caves and depicts a human figure hanging from vines robbing a bee colony whilst being surround by outsize bees!
One of honey’s first uses was probably in mead, a fermented drink made from honey and water. The alcoholic beverage has been said to inspire poets, priests and politicians amongst others and this drink was offered to the gods in ancient Egypt. It has been said that monks kept bees specifically for the beeswax they produced for candles although a by-product of mead probably kept them cheerful too! The term “honeymoon” is thought to originate from the practice of drinking mead – an aphrodisiac – when couples first wed.
Honey has even been used a currency to pay taxes and pots of the precious golden liquid were found buried with the pharaohs and hives were found in the Sun Temple. Bees made an appearance in hieroglyphs during the 3rd and 4th centuries BC – around the time when humans began to keep them and by 2500BC, Egyptians are known to have been making moulded confections using honey and today, modern recipes can often include honey as the sweetening ingredient such as flapjacks (gorgeous!). Just try adding 300g of porridge oats into a pan of melted butter (200g) and 8 tablespoons of honey. Add dried fruit and you will never buy supermarket versions again!
Not only has honey been a sweetener for thousands of years, it also has many other health giving qualities. A sore throat can be soothed with honey and lemon and at Ffynnon Beuno, we make lip balm and other skincare products using honey from our own hives. Recent research has shown that honey can even be used to tackle the MRSA bug and when applied to persistent wounds, honey has been shown to dramatically decrease healing time. Most of us have heard that local honey can be used to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever which makes sense given that the honey from your local beekeeper will be made from the pollen of all the plants that are in your vicinity!
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