Wild Honey

Wild Honey
Wild Honey

Honey is a blessed food, mentioned in the Quran and praised often by Nabi Muhammad (saws) for its healing properties. Not to mention, it tastes great too! My mother keeps bees on her farm, and the raw honey she produces has such a fantastic flavor. Whenever my family visits, I beg then to bring along a few bottles that vanish almost as soon as they leave.

In the long interim periods, I used to make do with whatever was on the supermarket shelf. Priced out of the premium Australian and New Zealand raw and organic honeys on the top shelf, I was always surprised to find a large selection of common honey produced in Malaysia, with China and Australia common honey alongside it, the Australia common honey commanding double the price. I’d heard of local Malaysian honey, but I couldn’t see how jungle-gathered honey could come in at the same price as China industrial beekeeping honey, or how there could be such a large and plentiful supply such as to keep a supermarket shelf stocked.

At the same time, I had seen at the open markets and roadsides wild honey for sale in simple glass bottles, but I had been warned that it was likely watered-down or inauthentic and would taste funny. Considering it was half the price of the supermarket stuff, and it seemed less viscous when I tipped the bottle, I figured it must be watered-down and never bought it.

Little did I know the dark secrets that lay beneath… Honey Laundering:

The honey business is plagued with international intrigue, where foreign hucksters and shady importers sometimes rip off conscientious packers with Chinese honey diluted with cheap sugar syrup or tainted with illegal antibiotics.

There are a dozen amazing stories in that link, with titles like “Don’t let claims on honey labels dupe you” and “Tainted product still slips easily into U.S.” It turns out that honey is one of the least regulated food products on earth, and its trade is caught up in smuggling, adulterating, false marketing and other criminal activity. The FDA doesn’t even have a straight definition of what honey is, and so water and sugar can be added without telling anyone. Honey is often imported from one country, mixed, cut and rebranded as it exports from another. Thus Malaysia turns out to be a major exporter of honey, but it’s all China honey in disguise. That’s why the supermarket China and Malaysia honey looked the same and cost the same: it was the same honey!

If you really want to get your hands on honey the way God intended, the solution is to buy your honey local from people you know and trust. If you’re in Michigan, you know where to go. For me, I took a chance on the anonymous glass-bottled stuff in the open market that had seemed so shady before.

It was clearly a different product. It was darker yet much thinner, and the taste was odd: it had a significant bitter aftertaste. No doubt it was these qualities that had generated the rumors I had heard. But I put it on the breakfast table and my children all thought it was just fine.

Poking around a bit, I’ve learned that the reason wild Malaysian honey looks, tastes and pours different is because it is made by different bees. The European honeybee, Apis mellifera, is used worldwide in commercial honey production. This honey is produced by Apis dorsata, the Rock Bee. The bees build their massive, meter-long hives high up in the Tualang tree (Koompasia excelsa), where it is retrieved by honey gatherers through methods you can scarcely imagine. (pdf) The gatherers scale the 100’+ trees in the middle of the night, distract the bees with a flaming torch, cut down the combs with a wooden knife and haul it all down in a cowhide bucket, all while singing soothing songs to the bees. One day I’ll have to go see it – until then that report is worth reading.


12 thoughts on “Wild Honey

  1. Salam alaikum,

    When in the Black Sea, we have the raw unrefined honey from the hives in the hills. It has quite a bitter and fragrant taste, probably because the bees collect a lot of pollen in the pine forests. I didn’t like it at first, but have become more accustomed to it over the years. It certainly feels more medicinal.

  2. Salaams,

    Great article! Does anyone know where I can get raw honey in the UK from?

    Jazakallah

  3. Asalaamu alaikum.

    SubhanAllah, i had no idea there was so much intrigue in the sale of honey! 🙂 i am a “buy local as much as possible” person anyway, plus when it comes to honey i believe that it is advantageous to buy local in order to get the most medicinal quality (i.e. eating the local honey helps to innoculate you against your local allergies) that is relevant to one as a resident of that place.

    Do your parents do mail order within Michigan?

  4. w/s

    I’m not really sure if they do, but you can contact them about it. My mother is even driving out to Grand Rapids every month I think, for a workshop or something. I know their supplies are limited so better to contact them now if you’re interested in the fall honey harvest. (If you tell her you heard about her through her brand new, cutting edge website, I’ll get extra bonus points.)

  5. My high school swim coach was a beekeeper who’d bring his own honey to some of our swim meets for us to have. (It helped that my high school’s mascot was the Green Hornet. 😉 ) However, his honey never tasted bitter; the only thing odd about it was that it had a granular look to it. Perhaps it was due to the type of bee he used. (?)

    Here, the only honey I purchase is from either Australia or New Zealand. I don’t recall ever seeing Malaysian honey available in S’pore, but I guess I’ll have to look closer the next time Milady and I are at the grocery store.

  6. Thanks for setting the record straight on honey. When we ran out of our own honey, your Dad bought some honey deceptively marked ‘Great Lakes Honey’. It looks like honey and pours easily. But it has no flavor other than sweetness. When you read the label, it says where it was ‘packaged’. But that doesn’t tell you where the honey was produced. I’m sure it was purchased from China, as much USA honey is, and then repackaged for sale here, although I cannot prove that. The best way to know that your honey is the real thing, is to purchase it from a beekeeper whose hives you can view. The 2nd best way, is to purchase what’s called ‘raw honey’. Really raw honey will crystalize several months after it’s harvested. That’s a sure sign that your honey is unprocessed and unadulterated.

  7. Both the holy Qur’an and Hadith refer to honey as a healer of disease.

    ‘And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (men’s) habitations….. there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought’.
    (Translation of Quran 16:68-69)

    In addition, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

    ‘Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Qur’an is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Qur’an and honey.’
    (Bukhari)

    The reader may be surprised to learn that the above quotation from the Qur’an is mentioned in a well known encyclopedia on honey (reference 3).

    Every drop of honey holds the spark of life. The honey, specifically Sidr honey has been reported to be good for liver problems, stomach ulcers, respirotry infections, diseases resulting from malnutrition, digestive problems, constipation, eye diseases, infected wounds and burns, surgical wonds (incl. caesarian), promote speedy recovery after childbirth, facilitates menstruation, (with various herbs) it can be used against epilepsy, srengthened the immune systems, to promote general health and vitality.

    Natural Arphrodisiac – Mixing Sidr honey with carrot seeds makes it an aphrodisiac. A blend of the honey with certain combination of nuts, ginseng and herbs are claimed to be better than Viagra, with no side effects.

    Antioxidant – Some honeys are found to have as much as 75-150 mg ascorbic acid per 100g, while others have less than 5mg per 100g. Antioxidants are important in counteracting the damage caused to the body by ree radicals whic play a role in the aging process and in triggering diseases such as arterial disease and cancer. Research has found that darker honeys have higher antioxidant properties.

    Antibacterial – Medical science is rediscovering the effctiveness of honey in the use of alternative therapies in areas where the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (the”superbugs”) spreads. Honeys may differ in the potency of its antibacterial activity thus affecting its healing abilities. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, while others can be diluted more than 100-fold and still halt the growth of bacteria.

    To know more about Yemen Honey’s nutritional valus, and how to find this healing honey outside Yemen copy this link:
    http://www.yemensidrhoney.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56&Itemid=41

  8. i always been cheated by honey seller,they said the honey that they sell was real but it wasnt when i tasted it.
    its hard to find real honey with cheap prices,
    but once i taste the real honey,thank GOD,
    marvelous,especially with glasses of milk.hehe.

  9. Honey must be eaten raw. Very few people know that honey in the super market aisle is heated to and above 60* c -140* F to keep it from crystallizing. There is no way around it, you have to do it if you like to ship it to far off places. But heated honey is no different than sugar syrup devoid of healing enzymes that work synergistically with natural sugars in honey. There are very few honeys which do not crystallize easily due to high water contents.

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