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The History of the Greek Honey

THE HISTORY OF HONEY

The history of honey stems from the ancient times, when it was appraised as a natural and healthy product, a necessary dietary component and not a supplement. According to fragmented information on the components of ancient Greek meals, honey was included in their daily diet, either separately or as an ingredient to prepare sauces and different sweets. In historical times, we come across writings of Hippocrates, Aristotle and Democritus that report the beneficial properties of honey for our health and longevity. At the same time, Pythagoras and his followers’ main nutrition was based on honey. They strongly believed in its antiseptic and medicinal properties and due to this, they used it to embalm the dead. It is also mentioned that this method was applied to embalm the corpse of Alexander the Great.
Honey became a basic sweetening ingredient in many parts of the word and was integrated in their diet as a major source of nutrition. This lasted until the mid-16th century, when sugar was first introduced in Europe and prevailed since the late 18th century, as a new product with great and low-cost production potential. Hence, for three centuries, honey was chosen only by few, who were aware of its properties and benefited from them. At the beginning of our century, though, the world returned to honey because of its increasing production, efficacy and accessibility. On top of that, scientists keep justifying with research its organic properties. Thus, honey still keeps gaining more and more consumers.
Honey became a basic sweetening ingredient in many parts of the word and was integrated in their diet as a major source of nutrition. This lasted until the mid-16th century, when sugar was first introduced in Europe and prevailed since the late 18th century, as a new product with great and low-cost production potential. Hence, for three centuries, honey was chosen only by few, who were aware of its properties and benefited from them. At the beginning of our century, though, the world returned to honey because of its increasing production, efficacy and accessibility. On top of that, scientists keep justifying with research its organic properties. Thus, honey still keeps gaining more and more consumers.

The symbolism of honey is preserved from ancient to modern times.

Specifically:

  • Honey was used in celebrations as a symbol of fertility and well-being.
  • Honey with walnuts and brittles were offered to the newly-married couples and the guests.
  • In Crete, a sweet made of fried dough and honey is served in marriages. (xerotigano).
  • In Rhodes, the day before the wedding, people make “melekounia”, a sweet with honey, sesame and rose water.
  • Women who have recently given birth eat bread, fermented with honey.
  • After Easter, people honor the souls resting in cemeteries by offering each other pancakes and omelets with honey.
  • In Greek households, nuts, a branch of olive tree and a cup of honey are placed on the table, for the sake of the upcoming year.
  • Finally, it’s no coincidence that Christmas and New Year’s sweets contain honey: melomakarona, diples and even sweet breads.