To Market with Mo: just a spoonful of...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If Mary Poppins were giving little Michael and Jane honey instead of sugar, why she might have been able to skip the 'medicine' part all together....and no it's not psychosomatic. That spoonful on honey does ease a sore throat. Honey is a wonder 'drug' on two fronts:

A) It's natural antiseptic properties, 'yeah, sore throat, take that', and a great topical salve (number one wound treatment during the civil war, how 'bout that tidbit?). For this purpose go for a darker honey, say a buckwheat honey. It packs more antioxidants than any other honey.

B) Homeopathically. If you are an allergy sufferer like myself, down local raw honey to build up your immune system. Your local bees aren't collecting nectar and pollen from hibiscus in Barbados, but from all those blooming things that got you sneezing in the first place. Local honey (especially a prairie or wildflower honey) hold bits of pollen from all these allergens. So, by consuming the honey, you start building an immunity to them. Yay you.

I could go on about the 'good for you' properties of honey, like all the antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, and vitamins it contains, but all that aside, it's the taste that is so intoxicating. And I am not talking your grocery-store, all the goodness cooked out of it variety, but real local honey that you can actually taste the blooms that it came from.

Speaking of the blooms. Did you know it takes 4.5 million flowers to make one pound of honey? And who does all the work? Bees. Seriously. These little creatures, who you might find annoying if they sting you, are probably the most important player in the sustainability story. Bees gather nectar from flowers, and in turn are pollinating plants. A full one third of the food we consume requires pollination. Did you know that when bees are around to pollinate, crop yields have been known to increase as much as 45%. Wow! Busy? Not the word for it. And with the bee population a quarter of what it was less than 50 years ago....well, instead of getting too down about this situation I say spin it positive--we can all do our part to help US beekeepers, and they in turn they will help the honey bee. How? By buying the byproduct of the bee's hard work: that raw local honey.

There are a number of sources for local honey and honey products. Two in the city itself (Chicago, to clarify for my out of town readers): Chicago Honey Co-op and Sweet Beginnings (producer of the beeline, line of honey products). Not only are both these producers working within the city limits in under-served neighborhoods, and increasing our bee population, but they are helping to provide jobs for those who might otherwise have a tough time finding employment.

A number of vendors sell honey at the farmers markets, but one of my favorite source is Bron's Bees Honey (from Heritage Prairie Farm). Why? I truly believe the beekeeper, Browyn Weaver's passion for bees, and beekeeping, is reflected in the honey she produces. Wait. I need to back up. The honey that her well-cared for bees produce. And don't stop at trying the honey and honey comb, if you have the opportunity to try Bron's Honey cake? Do. Oh my heck, this cake is pure bliss. But if you can't wait another couple of weeks for Summer market season to get into full swing, there are online and local retailers that carry these locally produced honeys (refer to all the links above).

All this talk of blooming and pollen has got me feeling a bit of spring fever. And if 'allergy girl' is going to sit out on the back porch, on an unseasonably warm MayDay evening, might as well combat the pollen blowing about with a 'medicinal' cocktail, right?

Bee's Knees (a speakeasy classic)
2 parts gin (Hendricks works nicely)
1 part honey simple syrup*
1 part fresh lemon juice
splash of Licor 43 (optional, but brings this cocktail to another level)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir briefly to dissolve the honey syrup, then fill with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon, or really zip it up with a sprig of lavender.
*Honey simple syrup: combine equal parts of honey and water in a sauce pan. Heat until simmering and honey is dissolved. Store in the fridge.

See you at the markets!

p.s. any favorite ways to use honey? email me at

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