Honey is our World: The History of Honey

Honey has been sought after for centuries. In the past a taste of this amber elixir could placate the gods, arouse feelings of love and inspire great cooks.

Man has harvested honey from bees since the ice age. The first recordings of man doing this are from Spain around 7000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered cave drawings depicting man collecting honey from wild bees at this time. Early man would have used torches to help smoke out the bees from their hives – allowing them to collect this rare source of sweetness.

As the years passed, man learned to work with bees. It is widely believed that the Egyptians were the first to practice beekeeping. They kept their bees in tall, cylindrical hives. The honey was collected by smoking one end of the cylinder to drive the bees to the opposite end. Half the honeycomb was removed and the bees left alone again. The bee was regularly used to symbolise royalty in the hieroglyphs of the time. The Egyptians used honey to pay taxes. Great quantities of it were used as sacrifices to the gods.

Beekeeping was seen as a noble and worthwhile pastime in ancient Greece. The keeping of bees was widespread among poor and rich. Greek recipe books of the time seemed to abound with all kinds of irresistible sweetmeats and cakes made from honey.

Like the ancient Greeks, the Romans loved the taste of honey in their food and used it as a gift to their gods.

In ancient Ireland, honey was an important commodity, so much so that it was mentioned in the Brehon Laws of the time.