Everything You Need to Know About Greek Honey
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Honey is an important part of Greek cuisine. Honey is often referred to as the “nectar of the gods” and with good reason – it’s sweet and delicious and a substance worthy of any deity. I first encountered Greek honey in Santorini when the waiter at a restaurant I was dining in brought me a platter of creamy Greek yogurt drenched in honey and topped with walnuts as a simple dessert. They explained to me that the honey came from a local source, and I’m certain that’s one of the reasons why it was so delicious.
Since then, I’ve learned that Greek honey is a real art. Beekeepers control the types of flowers the bees can feast on as a way to alter the taste. A quick browse at a local supermarket reveals just how diverse Greek honey really is. You can find those that have been made in certain regions of Greece and honey that tastes like certain flowers. When someone buys honey to cook with, they often choose one with flavors that will compliment the dish. For example, orange blossom honey is a great choice when making baklava, especially when a few orange peels are added to the syrup.
Despite my vast experience with Greek honey, I didn’t understand just how prevalent it is until I was hiking in the Samaria Gorge. Throughout the hike, I was struck by the amount of bees that were on the trail and they’d congregate around me. When I arrived at the end of the trail I figured out why – this is an area in Greece that is particularly known for its delicious honey. The honey gave me the energy boost I needed after hiking 11 miles through the gorge! After sampling some, I couldn’t resist bringing a jar of it home as a reminder of my time on the island and on the trail.
The main reason that honey is so exceptional in Greece is because of the climate. The dry air and direct, year round sun that is common in most of the country enables the honeybees to thrive. Did you know that Greece has more beehives per acre than any other country in Europe?
Greek honey is made by people all over the country who tend their bees traditionally. The knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next, and it is something that has become an important part of not only the cuisine, but also the culture. My brief encounter with a beekeeper on Crete first exposed me to how important honey is as not only a food, but as also a product that helps families earn money to live.
I always have a jar of Greek honey in the house. I use it on a daily basis as a sweetener in my tea, to top Greek yogurt, and to use in cooking whenever I have the urge. It’s an essential ingredient in my baklava syrup, which includes sugar, water, honey, cinnamon, and fresh squeezed orange juice. It certainly is the honey that makes the dish really shine. Other desserts use a syrup that’s similar to this one including kataifi, melamakarona, a type of soft cookie, and even loukoumades, which are a form of fried dough that are drenched in honey after they’re cooked.
When cooking traditional Greek foods that call for honey, it somehow doesn’t taste the same unless authentic Greek honey is used.
Categorized in: Greek Cooking
This post was written by GreekBoston.com