Folks have been abuzz over sweet, nutritious honey since earliest recorded history -- indeed, cave drawings and Egyptian papyrus depict honey collecting. It seems for most of us, though, honey has been relegated to morning toast. But thanks to creative chefs and a growing appreciation for things local, natural and sustainable, honey is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. From Canadian canola, cranberry and blueberry to exotic Javanese coffee blossom and Tasmanian Leatherwood, nowadays flavoured honeys, blends and monoflorals (those made from a single type of bloom) are sharing shelf space with good old Billy Bee. And you don't have to look any farther than the nearest supermarket. Maria Charvat, vice-president of product development at Loblaw Companies, is stocking a new line of honeys from all over the world in upside-down squeeze bottles. She says consumers are looking for healthier sweeteners, and "honey is more natural than refined sugar."
To appreciate honey, do think beyond the toasted bun. Strong in flavour and not too sweet, French chestnut honey pairs beautifully with charcuterie, and aromatic truffled honey adds a touch of luxury to a cheese board. At OddFellows in Toronto, chef Matthew James Matheson tops a silky duck liver pâté with runny honeycomb to spectacular effect. And high above Toronto, from hives on the roof of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, 10,000 hungry honeybees fan out across the city, visiting gardens and parks, then return with nectar for executive chef David Garcelon's Royal York rooftop honey. In 2008, his first year of production, he harvested over 300 pounds and took home second prize from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
lexicon of love
Mark Morton, author of Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities, says that the word honeymoon dates from the mid 16th century. It arose from the idea that marriage is as sweet as honey at the beginning but, like the moon, wanes and becomes less sweet over time.
a whole lotta honey
According to the Canadian Honey Council, hardworking Canadian honeybees produced 62 million pounds of amber goodness in 2008, with the Prairie provinces leading the way, turning out 80% of the sweet stuff. For more about Canada’s beekeeping industry and links to provincial sites, visit honeycouncil.ca.