The Dictionary informs us that honey is a pale yellow liquid, sweet, viscid and edible, collected and
processed by bees from the nectar of flowers. The word honey comes from the Arabic hon which became in
old English honig degenerating gradually to honey. The German word is still honeg.
Honey has been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt, where a jar of still edible honey was discovered in the
Tomb of Queen Tyi’s parents. It was thought to be 3300 years old. Evidence has been found of honey being
used by the Egyptian, soaked on bandages to form a ‘plaster cast’ for broken bones.
Considered by the Ancient Greeks to be sacred, and by the Hindus as a miracle food. Honey has been used
as a sweetener in our diet long before the discovery of sugar. When the ancient Phoenician traders came to
Britain for lead and tin they found the population consuming great quantities of honey and called Britain the
Isles of Honey.
Honey is also hygroscopic, antibacterial, and is antiseptic. It is claimed to have medical and cosmetic
properties, but beyond dispute is the unique and special flavour it adds to cooking.
Bees love to swarm. It is part of their reproductive process, trying to increase the number of bee colonies.
Queen cells are laid in the hive, and each departing swarm takes with it a queen to head up the new colony.
Although the noise they make is a bit frightening, the bees are not normally in a stinging mood as at that stage
they have nothing to protect.
Traditionally bees were kept in straw or basket work skeps. Swarming was encouraged, and when the swarm
had left the hive, and hopefully recovered and placed in a new skep, the old hive was killed over a bed of
sulphur and the honey collected. The beekeeper had a right to the collect the swarm wherever it landed
provided that the swarm had been kept in sight, ie to prove ownership. The swarm would be followed banging
cooking pans etc and creating a tremendous noise, not to make the swarm land, but to help establish the
Since the invention of hives with moveable frames, modern beekeeping tries to discourage swarms. Each
comb, hanging inside its own frame can be removed, searched and moved to a different position. Thus honey
can be removed without killing any bees, and modern beekeeping concentrates on manipulations of the
frames following various systems designed to control the swarming instinct. They are not always successful
however, and a departing swarm will have weakened the hive reducing the size of the honey crop.
COOKING WITH HONEY
Honey Glaze for Ham or Chicken
4 Tablespoons of runny honey
3 tsps of French Mustard
2 tsps Worcester sauce
Freshly milled black pepper.
Combine and brush over meat, re-bast at intervals until a rich crust forms over the skin.
Yogurt and Honey
Just try runny honey over a Greek yogurt.
1/2 cup salad oil 1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup honey 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika 1 clove garlic crushed
Place in screw top jar and shake vigorously.
Honey + Yogurt + Cucumber + Lemon Juice.
Honey + salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar.
HONEY AND FRUIT
Try a teaspoon of honey on a dessert dish of fresh prepared fruit. (Oranges, cranberries etc,) pour on a
teaspoon of boiling water to soften and make a little juice.
HONEY’S HYGROSCOPIC PROPERTIES
Honey is Hygroscopic. If left exposed to the atmosphere it will absorb the moisture in the atmosphere,
expanding, and when it is sufficiently diluted, beginning to ferment. For this reason honey should always be
stored in a sealed screw top jar.
The hygroscopic characteristic can be used to stop bread drying out, and to keep cakes and flap jacks moist.
Experiments will be need with individual recipes but basically a table spoon of sugar can be swopped for a
tablespoon of honey. This will have introduced too much water so the liquid content in the recipe will need
reducing by about half a tablespoon.
The honey in the bread will still be absorbing the moisture out of the atmosphere preventing the bread or
cakes from drying out quite so quickly.
When using honey in a recipe, dip the spoon in the oil first, or warm the spoon and the honey will just slip off the spoon.
Honey and beeswax has been used over the centuries in cosmetics. It is believed to tighten the skin to remove
wrinkles. Also used as a slimming agent as the honey causes rapid combustion when absorbed into the blood
stream and so helps to burn off fats.
Honey Face Pack
Mix honey and bran to make a smooth paste which is spread generously on the face. Leave for 30 mins and
wash off with warm water.
Honey for Chapped Hands
1 white of an egg
1 tsp of glycerine
1 oz of honey
barley flour to make a paste
Honey is extracted from the combs using a centrifuge. The empty combs are given back to the bees who will
clean from them every last drop of honey. The dry combs are then stored ready for reuse the following
season, or melted in a solar wax extractor. The resultant block of beeswax can be used for making candles or
To clean the wax it is melted in a saucepan of hot water. This is best done in a double jacket saucepan to
prevent the highly flammable beeswax from catching fire. Safer too on an electric stove. Let the wax cool
and solidify, and all the dross will have collected in a layer between the wax and the water. The dross can be
scraped off leaving pure beeswax. Have a wet cloth handy to extinguish any flame.
Beeswax polish is made by putting equal amounts of beeswax and turpentine in a container, with a lid to
stop evaporation, and leaving it in a warm area where the wax will dissolve into the turpentine. It may take a
few days to do this and it can be speeded up by melting the wax in a metal container, as described above,
then removing it well away from the heat source and then pouring in the turpentine and stir. Let it cool but
not set and then pour it into the final container or tins and leave it to set.
A good container is a wide jam jar but any container will do so long as you can enclose it with a lid or the
turpentine will evaporate. Only use real turpentine and not turpentine substitute.
Bees live in a construction of wax, the young bees are reared in hexagonal wax cells, and similarly the honey
is stored in wax cells, which are capped with a very thin white wax to keep it safe. They can be persuaded,
with some reluctance, to build their store of honey in wooden boxes, which the beekeeper can then pack for
sale, ‘Untouched by human hand’. It is also not processed in any way. The problem for the beekeeper is that
this store of honey is often unfinished, or blemished in some way making it unsaleable. Very few beekeepers
are willing to go to the trouble of trying to produce comb honey, hence its high price, but its delicious aroma
and taste is good compensation. Cut Comb Honey is a way round the problem. The comb for sale is cut from
a large comb omitting the damaged or unfinished comb.
CRYSTALISED AND RUNNY HONEY
Laboratory analysis of honey shows:-
Water 17.0% Levulux 39.0%
Dextrose 34.0% Sucrose 1.0%
Dextrine 0.5% Proteins 2.0%
Wax 1.0% Plant Acids 0.5%
Salts 1.0% Undetermined Residue 4.0%
The bees collect a very watery nectar from the flowers which they carry in their honey sacs, during this time
enzymes are added. In the hive the nectar is deposited in empty combs and he high temperature of the hive, plus the fanning action of the bees wings reduced the water content to 17%
when the cell containing the honey is sealed in the cell with a cap of wax.
In the high temperature of the hive ( approximately 85%C) the honey will usually stay liquid. Taken out of
the hive, the honey will slowly crystalize and become solid in the jar. The length of time it takes to solidify
will depend on the type of nectar. Ivy Honey and Oil seed rape will crystallize in days, other honeys will take
years. Solid honey can be converted back to liquid by gently warming on a radiator, but it must not be heated
over 100C or it begins to breakdown into a chemical which has harmful properties. Try 2 mins in a
Crystalised honey will often in time produce a ‘frosting’ on the inside of the jar. This is quite normal and does
not mean that the honey has deteriorated.
Honey will ferment if the water content exceeds 20%. This is how mead is made. Fermenting honey has a
very sweet smell, and becomes more liquid and will overflow the pot. It has a slightly different but pleasant
taste. It is possible for honey to ferment as it crystalizes. The sugars are absorbed into the crystals, and the
water content of the remaining solution increases until it starts to ferment.
The taste and appearance of honey depends on the flowers to which the bees have been attracted. Lime honey
is very light in colour, other tree flowers in the early spring create a very dark honey. The bees travel around
2.5 miles from the hive to gather the nectars making it impossible to control where the bees are working.
Specific flower honeys are produced where the are huge acres of one single blossom, thought even then the
odd bee might have flown a little bit further and brought home something else.
Heather Honey has a very distinctive flavour and sets as a thixatropic jelly and does not crystalize unless
something like Ivy has been mixed with it. As the Heather honey flow is in late August when few other
flowers are available to the bees, the Heather honey can be collected separately. Our honey “gathered from
the gardens of Guildford” is based on the location of the apiary within Guildford town. The main element is
usually lime or linden honey which gives the honey a very pleasant bouquet though those years when when
the fields at Merrow shine yellow with Oil Seed Rape the temptation for the bees is too strong and rape
becomes mixed with the other nectars making it crystalize very quickly with a slightly grainy texture.
Occasionally we have a late Autumn honey flow which will contain Heather and Ivy honey.
Honey can be identified by an analysis of the pollen grains it contains. Most shop honeys are a blend of honey
from countries where there is a heavy honey flow and wages are low making it possible to sell at a much
lower price than British Honeys.
Many claims both general and specific have been made for the healing properties of honey. Studies carried
out on a group of children and recorded in the Swiss Bee Journal during 1921 reported that those whose diet
contained added honey improved in general health, weight blood count and energy.
It has been used in the treatment of hayfever, local honey may contain the same pollens that caused the
hayfever and the small portions eaten in the honey help the body build up a resistance. Manuka honey comes from New Zealand, where the bees are working on a plant that only grows there. It does have strong medicinal properties, but is often heavily diluted mitigating its helpful properties.
Honey also has soporific effects try it in hot milk at night. Try warm honey and whisky added to a glass of
hot milk, or treat a cold mixed with a hot Lemsip, honey and whisky and taken at night.
For a sore throat try 1 tbsp of runny honey juice of an orange, 1 tsp of glycerine. Mix and take a spoonful
ANTIBACTERIAL AND ANTISEPTIC PROPERTIES
Honey is a super saturated sugar solution in which bacterial activity is reduced in the same was as sugar is
used in jam making. Honey thus becomes a sterile solution, and because it is thick and can be placed on
wounds to sterilize keeping out bacteria's and stop the would from drying out.
Runny honey quickly poured on a minor burn or scald will ease the pain and significantly speed up the healing
process. It can make an awful sticky mess however, and you need to stay indoors so that the wound does not
become an attraction for bees and other insects. Twice when boating my wife and I have both had serious
scalds on our hands which were immediacy flooded with runny honey and which them healed without
blemish remarkably quickly.
Bees are subject to quite a number of diseases, and there have been severe populations reductions when
certain diseases, (like the Isle of White Disease) have taken hold. The most recent is VAROA, a parasite
originating in South East Asia and which has now become endemic throughout most of the world, arriving in
Guildford about 10 years ago. It is a parasite which feeds on the larvae stage damaging the growing baby
bees, and also squeezes between the plates of adult bees feeding on their lymph. It seriously weakens the
bees, also spreads virus, and usually kills the colony. I lost all my bees the year it arrived in Guildford.
Various cures are being tried by beekeepers, but many beekeepers have given up beekeeping because of the
difficulties of controlling this disease.