To the Greek, it was the “food of Gods”. Used for cooking, in beauty products or as a powerful cicatrizer, honey has many properties in addition to its most important feature: it tastes wonderful. At the next Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, about one hundred beekeepers will sweeten the palates of visitors with many initiatives and tasting sessions. In the meantime, try the recipes below!
A dedicated room will host conferences and meetings, a Honey Bar will give the opportunity to meet producers from all over the world and taste their products, and a few special events will better explain the importance of bees for the harmony and health of the ecosystem. The Taste Workshop Honey Terroirs: Lazio, will explore the daily messages that bees send out. But their buzzing can also tell beautiful and inspiring stories: like the story of the biodynamic honey made from hives along the archeologically rich Anzio coast, the honey from the historic chestnut groves in the Castelli Romani park, or the high-altitude honey made between Mount Terminillo and the Laga mountains. Another interesting event is the No bees, no future conference, Friday at 6:00 pm, where beekeepers and experts will analyze the results of the Apenet Italian research into the effects of pesticides on hive health, which demonstrates once again the importance of a systemic vision of food production.
Guardians of the forest
In the Market area devoted to honeys, you will meet the producers of the Brazilian Slow Food Presidium of the Sateré Mawé Canudo Nectar, who will tell you the fascinating story of this delicacy. An ancient native legend relates that when Anumaré Hit went to heaven, transformed into the sun, he invited his sister to follow him. She initially hesitated, but eventually decided to stay on earth in the form of a bee so she could look after the sacred forests of guaranà together with the Sateré-Mawé people. Ancient Mawé already knew what we are rediscovering today: the wild stingless bees are responsible for pollinating at least 80% of the plant species of Amazonia. Without their patient work, the forest could disappear. And the risk does exist, because the colonies have always been targeted for their extremely valuable honey. The honey is rare and much sought after, also for medicinal purposes. But the indiscriminate removal of even just half a liter of wild honey causes the destruction of an entire colony. Long ago, the Sateré-Mawé decided to follow the ancient traditions of Mayan meliponiculture, though using more modern techniques. And with some differences: the Mayans protected their bees by raising them in tree trunks, while the Sateré-Mawé keep them in hives of simple stacked drawers made of local wood.
A help for emancipation
In El Salvador, beekeeping eases the difficult situation of the Los Lagartos community, in the municipality of Julián. After surviving the sanguinary civil war of the Eighties and the earthquake in 2001, people now live in great poverty, surrounded by discrimination and violence. In an attempt to find a way out of this situation, twenty women gathered in the Cooperativa de la Comunidad Los Lagartos with the aim of finding new working and credit access opportunities and supporting their families. The cooperative – in cooperation with the women’s movement of El Salvador (Msm) – started a project to spread beekeeping among the women of the group. Once trained on the practices of organic beekeeping, women producers are then supported by the experts of Msm and work together to keep the bees and extract the honey, then sold on the local market. The women also participate in workshops to increase their self-esteem and obtain the acknowledgement of their rights within their families and society at large.
The volcano honey
Of course, one of the stalls is dedicated to the Presidium of the Ethiopian Wenchi Volcano Honey. A few hours west of Addis Ababa, the road climbs up between pastures and crops of grains and ensete (a tree similar to the banana tree whose leaves and roots are used) and suddenly comes upon the magnificent landscape of the Wenchi volcano: a crater with steep green sides and a deep blue lake at the bottom. In recent years, an association has been working here organizing ecotourism activities and protecting and promoting the natural resources in the volcano area. The honey is extracted only once a year, in December, with a particularly complex process (at night, with a wooden spoon, a knife and a bowl). Then, the beekeepers bring the honey – still in its hive – back to the village and place it on a plate. Passers-by, children and family gather round. Tradition dictates that the person who collected the honey and brought it home has the first taste, before it is offered to everyone else. The seven Ethiopian food communities who work with honey, one of the most important products in the country, will come to Turin. They all belong to the Honeys of Ethiopia project, developed by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. Find out more on the Ethiopian communities, click here
And let’s not forget Italy, represented at Salone del Gusto by the Presidium of the Sicilian black bee, recently reintroduced in the island and the main subject of the conference The Black Bee Returns to Sicily. High-mountain honeys – namely rhododendron honey, mixed flower honey and fir honeydew will also be at the Salone. The Presidium aims at relaunching these honeys, produced by the hard work of “nomadic” beekeepers who move following the blooming times of different mountain flowers and obtain excellent and highly valuable products.
Desserts with honey
Countless traditional desserts contain honey as their main ingredient: from the spongata, a classic Christmas cake of the Piacenza area, to the struffoli of Naples, the cubbaita of Sicily (which has Arab origins), and the many nougats which delight the palate of many Italian regions. The traditional Faccio nougat will be available at the stalls of the Italian market, just like the Ceglie biscuits (Slow Food Presidium), where honey is a key ingredient, and the Battifollo di Primo Pan biscuits. Only a few know that honey, given its Ph and level of acidity, can be a perfect substitute for lemon in fruit salads, thus preserving the vivid color of fruit and preventing it from oxidizing.
Italy is one of the few countries in the world where producers are required to declare the origin of honey. It is advisable to go for Italian products whose labels provide information on the production area and the honey itself. Another important rule to buy a high quality honey is to avoid mixes of different honeys. Honey spontaneously crystallizes when temperatures start to drop and this is not a defect. Quite the opposite: it ensures that the honey has not been pasteurized and has therefore preserved better organoleptic features. Be careful, though: acacia, chestnut honeys and honeydew always remain liquid. Do not trust honeys which look “separated” (half crystallized, half liquid). Light foam on the surface shows that the honey is fermenting – a defect that is immediately tasted. When you find a good honey, enjoy it with good home-made bread, just like when you were kids!
By Alessia Pautasso