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A Sweet History: Honey Through the Years

Honey has a rich history — both literally and figuratively. And while Winnie the Pooh may be one of history’s most famous fans of this sweet source of sustenance, he’s just one in a very long list of people throughout the ages who have noshed on the “nectar of the Gods.” There’s no better time to give this ancient edible its delicious due than during September’s National Honey Month. Read on for an abbreviated history of honey, as well as a highlight of some of our favorite, honey-featuring foods.

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Honey cakes: Good enough for the gods, and for you, too.

The History of Honey

Just how far back in time does honey go? The truth is that no one knows because it predates modern record-keeping. Some speculate that honey bees were around more than 150 million years ago!

Until recently, most of what the world knew about beekeeping and honey came from the ancient Egyptians, who frequently featured bees in their hieroglyphs. At that time, it was a symbol of royalty and was particularly favored by the pharaohs — dubbed with the title of “Bee King.” In addition to using it as a sweetener, the Egyptians also used honey for everything from baked honey cakes to offerings for the gods. On a less delicious note, honey was also used by the ancient Egyptians as a component in embalming fluid.

But the Egyptians were hardly alone in putting honey to good use. Rock paintings suggest that hunters were sourcing honey from wild beehives in Valencia, Spain approximately 8,000 years ago. The Romans used it for wound=healing on the battlefield, while fermented honey wine, AKA mead, was a favorite spirit of 10th century English kings and queens.

Recent research published in the academic journal, Nature, however, places honey even further back than once thought. Rather than looking for the hard-to-find evidence of honeybees themselves, scientists instead examined the ancient pottery used in the Neolithic era looking for residual beeswax. Their efforts were rewarded with the unearthing of evidence of honey dating all the way back to 7,000 B.C. in Asia Minor.

The takeaway? Regardless of the specifics, honey certainly claims the distinction of being the planet’s oldest sweetener.

Honey Today

Honey finally made its way to North America in 1722 and quickly rose to popularity for its sweetening capabilities, although beekeeping didn’t become commercially viable in the U.S. until the 19th century.

And while honey’s arrival to American shores may be late when compared to ancient civilization, it still played a critical role in the development of the country, according to the book Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation. Reports author Tammy Horn,

“Honey bees―and the qualities associated with them―have quietly influenced American values for four centuries. During every major period in the country’s history, bees and beekeepers have represented order and stability in a country without a national religion, political party, or language.”

Celebrating Honey

Given honey’s amazing history along with the unique place it occupies in American history, why not make some honey discoveries of your own during the month dedicated to its honor? Sure, it’s luscious as a sweetener in your cuppa, but there are endless other ways to indulge in honey — from classic favorites like honey cake and honey ham to less-expected offerings such as honey pecan fried turkey and honey lemon lavender ice cream. And thanks to today’s gourmet food by mail offerings, you’ve got access to them all.

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Clearly, the gods would have enjoyed honey ham, too.

While honey’s history is uncertain, there is at least one thing you can be sure of when you stick with honey: Whatever you’re eating is sure to be delicious. Browse foods, gifts, and much more at FoodyDirect today.