A stinging in the back of your throat announces an impending cold. What should you do? In Cuzco people will tell you to drink a hot tea with honey. This product of bees is celebrated for its sweetness and health value in the imperial city.
Honey is an amazing liquid, thick and sweet, made by bees who daily journey from flower to flower gathering up nectar. It is like a concentrated version of the essence of all the flowers the bees find on their way.
While gathering the flower’s fluids, bees also perform the critical task of carrying pollen from one plant to another so that they may reproduce. With out bees many plants would not produce fruit and people would suffer.
It is not surprising that honey would be invested with almost magical properties. It is so sweet that it carries no use-by-date. Bacteria cannot grow in its presence. It is known as a mild, topical antibiotic. Not only does this sticky, golden liquid stop bacteria in their tracks, it also has other health properties, from nutrition to stopping colds and coughs. It also is used for beauty as a masque to refresh skin, and to clean up blackheads and pimples.
The people who care for bees and raise them are called bee keepers and practice apiculture, after the Latin for bee, apis. They watch over the bees in order to obtain the honey comb, honey, and bee pollen that the bees make every day.
It takes a lot of effort to take care of the bee hives in order to collet the honey that has such demand in Cuzco’s daily markets. As everyone knows bees protect themselves by stinging perceived threats. In order to avoid bee stings bee keeper wear special clothes including head covering, gloves, boots, and more, whenever they go to pull out honey comb and harvest honey as a result.
Honey comes in various colors, different ranges of sunshine though in all the extreme sweetness dominates. They also have subtly different flavors. The color and flavor comes from the different combination of flowers from which the bees harvest nectar.
When the honey has an intense golden color with a mild flavor, the bees took the nectar from sunflowers.
When the honey is a light golden, or “whiter”, color, the honey comes from the flowers of thistles or clover. These have a light, sweet flavor.
Though you might think all honey is very sweet, there are some exceptions. For example honey from the coronillo shrub is very dark and has a very strong flavor. It is sweet and acid at the same time.
It is a general rule that the darker the honey the stronger the flavor.
In Cuzco, honey is considered special and is widely consumed by almost everyone. If not for health, to impede the colds that seem to constantly afflict Cuzco’s population, honey is in demand for its exquisite sweetness.
People buy bottles of honey, commercially produced in its supermarkets, or more artisanally produced in its markets where honey is available most mornings. Bee keepers who bring their honey to sell offer it in different containers or in a large container that contains part of the honey comb. It is a delight to pass ones tongue over the comb and taste its extraordinary sweetness.
Bee keepers offer their honey for sale and tell you exactly where the honey comes from as well as its particular benefits and medicinal properties. If you buy industrially made bottles in the store you get none of this.
Besides helping with Cuzco’s health, honey is widely used for making pastries. In combination with other sugars and sweets it makes the most delicious goods that captivate people’s palates and make them come back for more.