I always believe that Travel is not an expense, its an investment. The experience that travel gives is priceless and to share those experiences with others so as to excite them to travel is my purpose of writing this article.
This New year one of my biggest endeavours is to travel to every state of India and document unique pickle recipes, culture and traditions. With the same agenda on mind I made my first travel to Nagaland, a place I had always heard of but never visited. There was excitement of exploring the new place and an early morning flight from delhi to dimapur via kolkatta got me to place in few hours.
Once landed I went straight to the Nagaland Beekeeping & Honey Mission which is about 20mins drive from Dimapur airport. This government run organisation in Nagaland cultivates honey at the same time helps in educating the locals on the best practises for honey bee rearing. The reason for this abrupt stop was on a strong recommendation by a friend Joel who insisted that I taste local Naga honey and I cant thank him enough for introducing me to the most unique Honey from this region.
I admit up until now I was in awe of honey from around the world, esp Yuzu honey from Korea and Manuka honey from Australia. But the local Naga honey just blew me away.
We have always known the taste of honey as sweet, but the honey that I was about to taste changes the very meaning of what I just said. I was introduced to 4 different varieties of honey at the honey mission.
Rockbee Honey - The honey of the rock bee is viscous, very dark almost black in colour, intense, light smoky flavour and a bitter after taste. Its Bitter Sweet flavour of the honey makes it very special. The Rockbee honey is a wild honey from Nagaland and is not cultivated. This honey is sourced from the bee hives hanging form the rock or cliffs in Nagaland and the bees visit the cane flowers & wild forest flowers for the nectar and this nectar makes the honey Bitter Sweet. Usually the hives are high up along the slope of the cliff making it extremely difficult for any one to reach. The locals set up temporary bamboo structures to climb and extract this honey and it is a sight to watch as the dare devils climb up and hang on to the cliffs for this special. Its a local attraction and I recommend to visit Nagaland around the honey harvesting season to watch this. This honey in my recommendation is great for basting roasts and even for preparing cocktails.
Honey of Stingless Bee - My most favourite honey now is the honey from the stingless bee. This is a very tiny bee and has a very small stinger that is not useful for its defence. The honey produced by the Naga stingless bee is quite runny and to my surprise is quite sour. Yes Sweet & Sour. This honey is naturally very sour with hints of sweetness & is one of the most expensive Naga honey. I found this honey very addictive and you cannot stop at just one spoon. My recommendation is to use this honey in salads as a dressing with some seasoning or even create dips.
Honey of Apis Cerana - Apis cerana is a variety of the bee that is from Nagaland and the production of this honey is quite high. This small bee that is known to be very aggressive is widely farmed for it honey in Nagaland. This light amber colour honey has a mild flowery after taste and is close to the common honey that we know of but it is much less sweeter than the bottled honey. This honey in my recommendation can be used as the daily breakfast table honey.
Black Honey - Also from Apis Cerana variety of honey bee, this honey is black in colour as the name suggests. The colour of the honey is natural occurring owing to the choice of flowers the bees select for its nectar. This honey is thick and has a light woody flavour to it. Its a kind of honey that I would love to baste meats for barbeque.
I remember once asking my little one where honey comes from. He happily answered from the market and I had to explain to him that honey comes from the honey bee and then it is bottled and sold in market. But then he asked me a question I dint know much about...He said but How does Honey Bee make honey? Finally after my travel to this honey mission I have the answer which quite honestly most of us grown ups din't know.
Q. How is honey made?
Ans. Honey bees suck nectar from the flowers and store it in a separate stomach. This nectar mixes with the digestive enzymes in the honey stomach of the bee and gets partially digested. The honey bee then goes back to their hive and expels out and deposit this nectar into the cavities of the hive. The bee may ingest and regurgitate the honey just to make sure it is partially digested. As this honey still has high moisture, the bee using its wings continuously fans the cavity containing honey to evaporate the moisture. Once sufficiently dried the honey bee secretes wax and covers this honey patch with the wax and the resultant honey then virtually never goes bad.
Q .What is the Difference between Ripe, Unripe & Processed Honey?
Ans. Once honey is deposited in the honey comb the bees fan them with their wings to dry up the moisture. Once the moisture is sufficiently removed the bees cover the honey with their wax. This thick honey is called Ripe honey and is the best honey and never goes bad.
On the other hand while harvesting the unwaxed (unsealed) honey comb containing thin honey with high moisture is called as Unripe honey. This unripe honey requires processing so as to increase its shelf life. For the same this unripe honey is gently heated upto 55c to remove the moisture. This is also called Processed honey which is widely available in the supermarket.
Some interesting Honey facts -
- Not all bees make honey, only honey bees make honey.
- Honey is the only food that never goes bad or expires.
- It takes about 6 months for bees to produce sufficient honey for harvesting. So twice each year harvesting from a colony of bee hive is done.
- The Honey bee eats Pollen, Nectar and Honey.
- Colour and flavour of the honey can never be the same as it depends upon the bee, which flowers it takes the nectar from, unless it is a commercial honey strictly farmed.
- Crystallisation is a sign of good honey & is a natural process and is perfectly safe for consumption. It occurs because of the presence high glucose in the honey and not because of the cold weather.
- Unprocessed ripe honey straight from the hive is the best and usually the most expensive honey.
- Honey is good for the skin. also it helps on rashes and minor cuts.
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