Honey - An endearing sweet thing

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Honey is a word that is used in one more way than as a food item! We all know that it is also an endearment that many people use to address their spouses or any other loved one. Be that as it may we cannot but accept that honey as a food has many qualities. 

I am so grateful to nature that has gifted us with one of the most splendid gifts in the form of honey. It has many nutritional and medicinal properties that are beneficial to us. It is indeed one of the oldest original sweeteners, and was used long before cane sugar was discovered. If truth be told refined sugar has replaced honey only in the last few hundred years.

Honey is viscous, translucent, light yellowish-brown in colour, aromatic and sweet in taste. As it ages it becomes opaque and crystalline.

Honey is got from beehive or honeycomb where it is deposited by honeybees. It actually is found in the nectars of flowers from where it is sucked by the bees and stored in the comb. To most of us honey is a sweet and golden liquid. But how many know that honey can found in a variety of forms like liquid honey which mixes easily and is used in cooking; whipped honey is available in crystallized state; comb honey is available in honeybee’s wax comb both of which are edible; and cut comb that is packed with chunks of the honeycomb.

The colour and flavour of honey depends on the source of nectar visited by the honeybees. The colour ranges from nearly colourless to dark brown and the flavour varies from delectably mild to distinctively bold, depending on the blossoms from where the honeybees sucked the nectar. 

Some of the most valued honey comes from orange blossom, buckwheat, sage, blossom, heather, rosemary, lavender, acacia and eucalyptus. The colour varies with the source. Usually the paler the honey, the milder its flavour. The difference in the consistency of honey is due to a variety of factors like plant source, water content and temperature while processing. Honey can differ greatly, ranging from very thin to almost hard – and may be white to golden to varnish brown and sometimes even black.

There are more than 300 types of honey, each originating from a different floral source. On the other hand the consistency of honey depends on different factors like plant sources, water content and temperature at which it is processed. Honey can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Honey can be had on its own or used as an ingredient in various dishes both vegetarian and non vegetarian; in savoury as well as in sweets. When used in baking, it not only adds a distinctive flavour to baked goods, it also makes them dense and moist, so that they keep longer. When cooking with honey, bear in mind that its sugar tends to caramelize when heated, and that some of its delicate aroma may be driven off.

Honey is one of the finest sources of heat and energy. Mixed with equal quantity of lemon juice it serves as an excellent cough mixture especially for children. It also provides much relief to people suffering from asthma. It is also a pain reliever, acts as an antiseptic, effective in curing burns as it hastens healing. It is also known to aid digestion and prevent stomach ailments. Most importantly it can be consumed by diabetics who cannot have any other kind of sugar. 

Honey is the finest source of heat and energy and is one of the most easily digested forms of carbohydrates. It provides instantaneous energy and is a boon to those with a weak digestion. 

One spoon of fresh honey mixed with a juice of half a lemon in a glass of lukewarm water and taken first thing in the morning is an effective remedy for constipation and hyperacidity. 

Honey is rich in iron, copper and manganese and is beneficial in the treatment of anaemia as it helps maintain the right balance of haemoglobin and red blood corpuscles. 

Honey is also an antiseptic, hastens healing and is especially effective in curing burns, wounds and sores. 

Honey is used in the manufacture of various cough mixtures and honey gargles are useful in irritant cough. 

Honey is specially useful in providing energy and heat to the body in old age.

At home we always a couple of bottles of honey. So when are you going to add it to your kitchen shelves? 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.