FROM THE BEEHIVE TO YOUR TABLE
From the moment they are born until the time they die, bees work tirelessly to produce honey. There are two types of bees in every hive: the bees that leave the hive to collect nectar, and the worker bees that remain in the hive and produce honey (among many other chores). The former visit thousands of flowers during the spring and summer months, playing a crucial role in the pollination of plants.
AN EFFECTIVE PROCESS
Bees gather nectar using their tongue, which looks like hay. As soon as they return to the hive, bees pass their nectar on to worker bees. As more and more nectar is infused, the liquid becomes thicker and richer in enzymes and eventually turns into honey. Subsequently, the honey is placed in the “cells” of the honeycomb inside the hive. To reduce moisture, bees flap their wings for 20 minutes to circulate the air. The cells are ultimately sealed and the honey is ready for processing.
PROTECTION OF THE BEES
Unfortunately, problems such as monoculture, climate change, and heavy pesticide loads have contributed to the continuous decline of bee populations since the late 20th century. We can help reverse this trend by allowing wildflowers and plants to grow freely around our houses or, better yet, by planting endemic flowers.
Honey is sweet – this is universally known. But honey also adds a special “touch” to almost any recipe. It is an ingredient with almost infinite possibilities.
Many people think of honey as the glaze on desserts. However, now more than ever, honey is considered a very flexible ingredient in cooking. Natural honey provides an incomparable flavor and unique functional benefits to any recipe. As a balancer of flavors or a source of moisture for baked goods, honey can satisfy a series of needs, all while using a (usually) very small quantity.
Honey, a natural source of energy
Honey is a source of carbohydrates, with 17gr per tablespoon, a fact that makes it ideal for muscle-building, since carbohydrates are the primary “fuel” that the body uses for energy. Carbohydrates help maintain the levels of muscle glycogen, also known as the carbohydrate reserve, which is the most important fuel source for athletes that want to build endurance.
Whether you are looking for an energy boost or a sweet reward after an intense training session, honey is a quick, easy and delicious natural source of energy!
Honey as a sports aid
Before exercise: for years, sports nutritionists have recommended the consumption of carbohydrates before sports activities, for an increased energy boost. As with many other carbohydrates, pure honey can be an effective food for people who exercise or train regularly.
During exercise: Consuming carbohydrates, such as honey, helps your muscles remain nutritionally full for longer. This delays the onset of fatigue, contrary to not consuming any kind of food or supplement. Add a little honey to a bottle of water – this can provide you with the energy you need!
After exercise: Research has shown that consuming a combination of carbohydrates and proteins after exercise (within 30 minutes) is ideal to refuel the muscles and reduce the appearance of cramping. That is why honey is a good source of carbohydrates that can be ideally combined with food rich in protein, after the end of your training. In addition to helping restore the muscles and the glycogen reserves, combined carbohydrates maintain an appropriate blood sugar concentration post-exercise.
Recommendations for use in sports activities
When scheduling your training, remember that honey is a good source of carbohydrates, with 17gr per tablespoon (and just 64 calories). Combining honey with fruit, vegetables, lean meat, whole wheat cereal, and other healthy foods improves your nutrition and can provide you with a great natural energy boost.
Hydration is one of the most important tools for athletes. Just add honey to your water bottle to increase energy during exercise.
Even a simple sandwich with whole wheat bread and honey is a high-energy snack.
Given that honey is a convenient, portable source of energy, you can carry it with you during periods of intense activity to help maintain your energy levels.
There are over 300 types of honey in the world. Color, flavor, odor and texture are determined by the plant source of the nectar. The flavor varies as much as the color, which can range from white and gold to orange, brown and almost black.
TYPES OF GREEK HONEY
About 65% of total honey production in Greece comes from pines. In fact, pines are considered the most important honey-making plant in our country. The main regions that produce pine honey are northern Evia, Halkidki, Thasos, Skopelos, Zakynthos, and Rhodes.
Flavor: Due to its low sugar concentration, it is not too sweet.
Odor: Particular. Some compare it to the odor of iodine.
Color: Pine honey is usually dark in color. But the pine honey produced in spring is somewhat lighter in color and clearer than that produced in the fall.
Crystallization: Pine honey becomes crystallized relatively slowly, since its natural glucose content is low. Specifically, pure pine honeys remain liquid, without crystallization, for more than a year and a half.
Nutritional value: Pine honey is considered a product of high nutritional value, primarily due to the high number of various elements found in its composition. Prominent among these are metals and trace elements (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, etc.), which appear in high concentrations in Greek pine honeys.
One of the best and most expensive honey categories. It stands out for its distinctive appearance – it is especially thick. It is calculated that approximately 5-10% of the honey produced in Greece is from fir trees. It originates primarily from mountainous regions in Evritania, the mountain range of Pindos, Mount Olympus, Mounts Mainalo, Parnonas and Helmos in the Peloponnese and Mount Parnitha in Attica.
Flavor: This type of honey is distinguished by its exceptional good flavor.
Odor: It does not present a particularly strong aroma.
Color: It varies depending on the region of origin. Fir honey from Vytina, in Arcadia, stands out for its crème-colored highlights and is known as “Fir Vanilla”. In general, fir honey has a deep honey color, darker in some regions and lighter in others.
Crystallization: Due to its low glucose content, it does not crystallize.
Nutritional value: It is rich in trace elements (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, etc.). It contains vitamins in very low quantities, but even this small content helps the body better absorb sugars.
It is produced from the nectar and honeydew secretions of the chestnut tree, which is considered a good honey-making plant and is quite prevalent in Greece’s mountainous regions. In Macedonia, chestnut honey is harvested mostly on the Mount Athos peninsula.
Flavor: Strong, slightly bitter, and long-lasting. The flavor of chestnut honey is so intense that a small amount can cover the flavor of other honeys.
Odor: A heavily aromatic honey.
Color: It varies by provenance from light brown to deep brown and black, if it is honeydew.
Crystallization: It crystallizes slowly, after 1-2 years.
Nutritional value: Rich in trace elements.
Citrus trees (orange trees, lemon trees) are an important source of nectar for honey production. Citrus honey (especially from orange trees) is exceptionally aromatic. It is produced mainly on the islands (Chania in Crete, Poros, etc.), in the Peloponnese and Epirus.
Flavor: Very exceptional flavor.
Odor: Strong, wonderful aroma.
Color: Light yellow.
Crystallization: It crystallizes very quickly, so it is best to consume it in a short period of time.
Nutritional value: To maintain the nutritional value of this type of honey, it must be consumed in a short period of time and protected from high temperatures.
It is considered a honey of exceptional quality. It belongs to the category of wildflower honeys, but in truth it is a category on its own due to its strong aromatic and flavor characteristics. It is very attractive in appearance, which is why it is preferred by consumers. However, its great demand is also due to the fact that, when mixed with other types of honey (even in small quantities), it decisively affects their aroma. It accounts for approximately 10% of the entire Greek honey production. The best regions for thyme honey are the Greek islands, and especially Crete and Kythira.
Flavor: Thyme honey has a pleasant flavor, but sometimes, due to its high fructose concentration, it can leave a burning sense in the palate.
Odor: A honey with strong aroma.
Color: Usually light amber.
Crystallization: This type of honey crystallizes in 6-18 months.
Nutritional value: Thyme honey is considered to have tonic and antiseptic properties.
There are two types of heather honey, with different properties: honey from fall heather, and honey from spring heather. Spring and fall heather (known in Greece as sousoura) is one of the most important honey-making plants in Greece. It is produced throughout almost the entire country.
Fall heather honey
Flavor: It is more flavorful than spring heather honey, and is distinguished by its strong taste.
Odor: Distinctive, fine aroma.
Crystallization: Due to its high natural glucose content, it crystallizes very quickly (in approximately 1-3 months), and that is why it is not suitable for mixing with other honeys to create commercial types (blends). This honey also ferments easier than other types, because it has high moisture and a high concentration in saccharomyces.
Nutritional value: Heather honey (especially the fall variety) is considered to be a very nutritional type of honey and a strong tonic, so it is sold primarily in health food stores.
Spring heather honey
Compared to the fall variety, this honey is lighter in color and has a different flavor. It is characterized by a high glucose concentration.
Wildflower honeys from various inflorescences
This is a wide category containing many type of honey. The main production volume in this category relies on spring efflorescence.
There are many varieties of wildflower honeys, including honey from mountain wildflowers and herbs, sunflower honey, cotton honey, and clover honey.
Flavor: These are some of the sweetest types of honey.
Odor: Spring flowers and herbs.
Color: Almost always light-colored.
Crystallization: Wildflower honey crystallizes relatively quickly.
Nutritional value: Wildflower honey is considered therapeutic, since it assists the proper function of the bowels (and hence digestion), while also possessing antiseptic and antibacterial properties.