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Cretan Honey

Cretan honey is considered to be one of the best in the world. First of all, this is due to the special climatic conditions, which maximally contribute to the rapid development of the honey plants. It is very fragrant, has colors from dark golden to light golden yellow. A special aroma of Cretan honey is due to medical plants and aromatic herbs growing abundantly on the island, which is known to be one of the European regions with richest endemic plants. For millenniums, Crete has a special kind of honey bee, famous for its excellent qualities of honey. This bee is small in size, painted bronze-gold with light yellow stripes, resistant to diseases and very aggressive. Many writers of antiquity report about it because the supreme god Zeus was nourished by her honey, according to a beautiful myth. On Crete, a beautiful gold decoration representing two bees is among the most fascinating archeological finds. It is found during excavations of the Minoan palace 2 km east of the tourist center of Malia. This famous gold decoration became the symbol of Malia. It dates from around 1550 BC: two bees carry a drop of honey. The original one is now kept in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. In addition, there are ideograms of honey depicted on ancient Greek writing tablets, and Greeks use today the same word for honey – μέλι. This word has been spoken for 3,500 years; for bee, the Greek word is “melissa”: an insect that produces honey, but in myths, there is Melissa, a daughter of the Cretan king Melissus. The names themselves indicate the great tradition of Cretan beekeeping. Crete is rich in self-seeding plants, such as thyme, sage, bramble bush, oregano, pine, acacia, and arbutus as well as in, of course, cultivated citrus trees. Cretan honey is processed by natural methods without exposure to high temperatures, which destroy vitamins. According to official data, there are more than 2 thousand beekeepers on Crete, and it ranks fourth at the national level in terms of honey production. Previously, hives were always placed in the same place. Today, beekeepers carry hives from one area to another, depending on the flowers growing there. In the early spring, hives are installed in orange groves, usually at a low altitude, so that bees can collect nectar from blossoming orange trees, and then beehives are raised to mountain areas – there aromatic grasses bloom, especially thyme, which gives the Cretan honey a special taste. The Cretan honey is super, especially a mountainous one from the coniferous forests.

“Pine honey”? The fact is that the pines are blooming without nectar and do not need bees for pollination. Where does the “pine honey” come from? It is from honeydew, from sweet secretions of specific insects living under the bark on the branches and sucking the arboreal juice. This honeydew is collected by bees. Such a honey is usually called “honeydew honey”, “forest”, “coniferous” or “pine”. Unfortunately, these scale insects (Marchalina hellenica) are not symbiotic but parasite ones that infect a tree and sometimes lead to the death of it. According to Wikipedia, up to 60% of honey is produced in Greece from honeydew. In comparison to the flower one, this honey has its pros and cons, but, undoubtedly, it is useful, tasty, and crystallizes much more slowly than the flower honey. However, the sellers of it try not to attract the attention of customers to the true origin of this honey. They call it collected by bees “from the pollen of conifers”, “from the juice of the Cretan pine”, and etc. The real problem lays elsewhere: trying to increase the production of honeydew honey, beekeepers deliberately have infected large areas of healthy trees in forests with scale insects. It is believed that on Crete, the most common honey is a thyme one. Cretans use a lot of honey: daily consume is up to 150 g. per capita. They tray not to use the sugar themselves and do not give it to the children. Honey is an easily digestible food. In addition to glucose and fructose, it contains more than 180 very useful for balancing metabolism substances, such as vitamins, amino acids and enzymes. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, help the body get rid of harmful substances and toxins as well as of consequences of bad habits like smoking or exposures to radiation. In small quantities, contained in the Cretan honey such sugars as glucose and fructose are allowed even for people with diabetes! Honey is the second after olive oil what you need to buy on the island from food products. Incidentally, it is worth, costs circa 5-8 Euros per 1 liter. Honey can always be bought on Laika Agora (i.e. in urban markets). In general, there are in each village, settlement or monastery its own honey and oil. It is noticed that the honey is better with the higher altitude in the mountains, and oil with the farther from coast.

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