Honey is a natural sweetening substance that is produced by the bees from the nectar of the flowers. It is of high nutritional value and for ages was considered to be a gift from the Gods.
It was used as a sweetener from the dawn of mankind, before humans learned how to process sugar. Honey is considered a superfood and it was used also as a medicin and a booster for good mood.
Humans attempted to domesticate bees. That is how the art of beekeeping flourished, but bees still remain wild.
Honey was introduced to the Greeks by the egyptians and then became one of the most preferable products worldwide.
The honey in Greek History.
Historic findings show that honey was produced in Phaistos, the ancient Minoan city in southern Crete around 3400 BC when the famous golden jewerly of the 2 bees holding a honeycomb, dates at the same period.
Honey in Greek Mythology
Honey was deified and became the drink and food of the Gods, the so called nectar and ambrosia .
Melissa was deified as well. She was the nymph, in which Rea gave the infant “Cretan” Jupiter, whom she had nursed with milk and honey in the Diktai rocks of Crete. She was also considered the nymph who discovered the art of beekeeping and the preparation of the watermill. Then taught it to the beekeeper Aristotle, a demigod, who has undertaken to transfer this knowledge to the people.
Historic references about honey in Antiquity.
Homer refers to “Melikraton”, a mixture of honey and milk, which was considered an exceptional drink. Apart from Homer, there is a rich reference about honey to theatrical and poetic works of this era such as in Hesiod, Pindaros, Kalimachos, Apollodoros, Euripides, Archelaos, Herodotus, etc.
Hippocrates praises the beneficial effect of the “wine-honey” on healthy and weak. Pythagoras notes that honey eliminates fatigue, while Demokritos writes about the well-being and longevity due to honey.
In Sparta, teenagers and students trained as soldiers lived in Taygetos for a month eating only honey. The famous honeymoon.
Beekeeping is organized systematically and organized in the form of a business. Therefore, laws and regulations are laid down from the great lawmaker of the Athenian Solon (640-558 BC), which define the distances between beekeepers so that there is no doubt about the ownership of the flocks.
Aristotle manufactures a glass hive to find out how the bees and the writings of “Stories animals” and “livestock animals” work, and the bee society is emerging as a model of study and model of operation, structure and hierarchy of an ideological state.
There are many more examples like this throughout Greek history that show how important honey was to the Greeks and with good reason.
Types Of Greek Honey
The composition, the quality, the organoleptic elements and the form (liquid or crystals) of Greek honey differ from plant to plant, region to region and from year to year. The weather conditions and flora, which in our country are characterised by a wide diversity, influences greek honey.
Greek honey separates into two major super categories:
- Floral honey (known as anthomelo), from the nectar of flowers (thyme, orange blossom, heather etc.) honey.
- Honeydew honey (often called dasomelo or forest honey)that is produced from secretions of an insect, then marchalina hellenica, that sucks the trees, typically conifers. Pine honey belongs to the same category as fir tree honey and other forest plants.
There are eight basic categories of pure Greek honey:
- Pine Honeydew of high biological value, low in sugars.
- Fir Honeydew of a thick consistency, with no particular aroma but great taste.
- Chestnut blossom, honeydew and floral, with the strong bitter taste.
- Heather (floral) with a delicate aroma, thick, opaque and not as sweet as thyme.
- Thyme (floral), perhaps the most popular honey.
- Orange blossom (floral) and citrus, with a strong perfume.
- Cotton (floral), primarily left to the bees.
- Sunflower (floral)
Greek Honey Products
When in Greece, you must try products made by honey either eatable or not. You will find greek honey a lot in greek recipies but also a lot in cosmetics and skincare products. During your visit in Greece, do not miss out the following:
- Royal Jelly
- Bee wax
- Pasteli (Sweet made mostly in the Ionian Islands with honey, sesame and almonds)
- Melomakarona (greek sweet made mostly in Christmas holidays)
Lefkada has a rich tradition from ancient times, in the production of honey. Its peculiar soil and landscape makes Lefkada an ideal place for beekeepers. The island is covered in wild thyme and sage and as a result, honey is very aromatic. Lefkadian honey is probably one of the best honey you will ever taste. Honey in Lefkada is mainly produced at the south-western villages of Lefkada, with the most famous of them being Dragano and Athani.
Honey Festival in Lefkada
Each August there is a honey festival in Dragano by the Association of Environmental Protection and Cultural Preservation of South-Western Lefkada ”Sapfo” with the collaboration of local producers. The visitors can taste the local honey for free and get local delicacies such as honeycomb, honey pie and pasteli. Furthermore, there is a demonstration of honey harvesting so as to get familiar with the proceedure. The festival ends up with a traditional feast.