Most of us think honey to be that golden, syrupy liquid that we find in supermarkets. But, if you've ever had the freshly-collected variant, you will know that actual honey can be a far cry from the commercial versions that we are used to. Indian bees produce a diverse range of honey, depending on the flower they source nectar from. In this episode of The Real Food Podcast, Vikram Doctor finds out about the history of honey in India and its many, many flavours that we really should be proud of.
There's an interesting point that needs to be made about honeybees themselves. They play an important role in the ecosystem. It's claimed that Albert Einstein once said, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live." The authenticity of the quote is debatable, but the point being made isn't necessarily incorrect. The apple orchards in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are a good example of this - bees pollinate the crops, ensuring better yield and quality.
Honey doesn't see much use in Indian cuisine, and so, it may surprise some that honey in India goes way back. The Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh, for example, feature paintings that show scenes of honey collection. We can also boast of a wide variety of honey, with flavours that range from nutty and floral to spicy and earthy. Vijaya Pastala from Under The Mango Tree explains more in the podcast, as she talks about the varied range of honey that can be found in India.
In the kitchen, honey proves to be a versatile ingredient. From honey butter to a honey and lime dressing, the internet is filled with recipes that use honey. So, why do we not see more of it in Indian kitchens? It's difficult to cook with, for starters. But, another reason, Vikram Doctor explains, is that from sugarcane to the syrups from palm, date and coconut trees, we've traditionally had a number of easy-to-source sweeteners, which meant that we moved away from honey.
But, is that reason enough to ignore this food that is multidimensional in taste and can be used in a variety of ways? There's a rich variety of honey that India boasts of, and as Vikram Doctor puts it perfectly, "It is a healthier way to give yourself a sweet kick."
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