Honey Challenge Part 1

What do you know about honey? I bet you know it tastes fabulous, though you shouldn’t feed it to very young children. You might have heard the old wives’ tale of honey being great at healing burns and minor scrapes. Perhaps you know that the world’s bees, and thus honey, are disappearing. Maybe you’ve tried eating locally produced honey to treat your seasonal allergies, or used it with oatmeal as a moisturizing face mask (or a filling breakfast). That was the extent of my knowledge until I began the Honey Challenge of washing my face with it for two weeks.

I grabbed the closest bottle of honey and roughed it up, demanding its Interpol record and Wikipedia entry; I threatened to feed it to a bear if it didn’t fess up its secrets. I growled into its scared face, its golden color blanching by the second. “I need to know, honey!” I said to it, shaking it harder.
Just kidding, I didn’t really do that (no honey abuse here). In my efforts to be a more informed consumer, I did some online fact-checking on the reported benefits. Here are some points I found interesting, though by no means comprehensive:

  • The ratio of fructose to glucose in honey makes it an ideal energy provider. This combination allows honey to both supply immediate and sustained energy (just the other night I was watching the Venezuelan football team guzzling honey before their overtime during the Copa America) and is easily processed by the body. Honey has a slightly lower Glycemic Index rating than sugar.
  • Honey makes amazing barbecue sauce.
  • It is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air (I had to look up that one), and making it a perfect humectant for skin and hair. It must be stored in a lidded container otherwise it will ferment as it naturally attracts and retains water.
  • If you forget to keep it covered (see above), you may end up with mead. Yum!
  • It is naturally antimicrobial, though I wouldn’t recommend replacing your hand sanitizer with it.
  • Honeycomb wax is edible in small quantities. Some people just chew like gum, some spread it on their toast, and others swallow it whole.
  • Raw honey contains amino acids, digestive enzymes, and vitamins B, C, D and E.

China is the world’s honey-making behemoth, while Argentina is one of the top three producers and exporters. I thought I would have no problem finding raw, locally produced honey for my experiment. Oh ho, was I wrong. We are in Argentina, and sometimes things just don’t make sense in this country. I should have remembered when Fer and I couldn’t find honey at the store last month- all they had were weird tubs of honey-corn syrup mix. I really wanted to get my paws on pure, unprocessed honey, and so our search began. Carrefour had a jar of organic honey (that was surprising as organic is not yet a big trend here), Coto had a bunch of creamed honey, and the Chinese stores had regular filtered/pasteurized honey.

Then we found La Mielísima. This little gem of a store loosely falls into the category of dietética, but really is just a honey shop with a few extra things rounding out the inventory.

They had blocks of formed beeswax stacked by the door, a table full of honeycomb, and three vats of honey waiting to be poured. Yes, yes, and yes! This is exactly what I needed. We purchased a kilo of raw, floral honey for 23 pesos, made by Mamma Bee in Pergamino, a city just northwest of Capital Federal. The owner was very helpful in answering all of our questions about the honey we were looking at; she told us from what flowers and where in Argentina each type originated and explained the honey bottling process.

You can see the crystals in this raw, unfiltered honey. I think there might be a piece of honeycomb in the middle!

Besides honey they offer several types of food-grade oils (walnut oil!), molasses, aloe vera juice, dried fruits, and Weleda brand products, among other items. The store will give you a discount on your next purchase for bringing back the empty jar (or your own clean one).

You can find La Mielísima  at Rodriguez Peña 99, on the corner of Bme Mitre and about six blocks west of 9 de Julio. They are open Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, and Sat 9am-2pm, which are great hours considering a lot of places close early on weeknights and aren’t open at all on weekends. Their phone is 4381-8198, and website link is here.

Stay tuned this weekend for The Honey Challenge Part 2: Washing My Face.

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