Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Book Looks at Honey Trade Worldwide

Honey of a Book Tells Sticky, Sweet Tale
Otago Daily Times (New Zealand), 5/31/2008

Honey is more than just a breakfast spread. It may just hold the key to the future of our food supply.

THE HONEY SPINNER: On the trail of ancient honey, vanishing bees and the politics of liquid gold
Grace Pundyk
Pier 9, pbk, $40

Review by Charmian Smith

There is a trend for authors to trace certain products around the world, writing a sort of travel book, memoir, history and exploration of a topic all rolled into one.

Australian journalist Grace Pundyk picks honey and honeybees as her topic, and follows them along the sticky road from Yemen to Australia, from Borneo to China and through the big honey-packing businesses in the United Kingdom and United States.

It is not all sweetness and light, despite the heavenly wild honeys she discovers along the way…

Until people started asking about CCD nobody paid much attention to bees and honey, arguing that if honey could be imported more cheaply, why should they bother with a home-grown product.

But honey is individual to the country and its vegetation - we treasure New Zealand manuka, kamahi, and beech forest honeydew honeys; across the ditch Tasmanian leatherwood and the various gum-tree honeys are enjoyed, while in the Middle East people will pay $150 for a jar of sidr honey from Yemen.

Pundyk travels with nomadic beekeepers in Yemen and in Australia who take their hives around the country to wherever the crops are flowering.

She visits New Zealand to explore the unusual antiseptic properties of manuka honey and chart the spread of the varroa mite from the north to Wellington on a truckload of logs in which a swarm of bees was nesting.

She finds NGOs promoting non-timber forest products and helping tribal wild honey collectors in the jungles of Borneo…

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