Raw honey is nothing short of an elixir – healing everything from the smallest cut to the most serious health issue, believes Arunima Sahu, as she shares her story.
I was born in Muzaffarpur, Bihar in a joint family of eighteen people where food was a lifelong family obsession.
Conversations at home revolved not just around recipes or flavors but also around topics like sourcing, seed quality and quality and fertility of the soil.
It seemed completely normal to me back then that when I first started living in Delhi our daily vegetables would come from Patna each week. We were told this was because the soil and the water of the Gangetic plains were far better than that of the Yamuna and that was good enough reason for us. I guess when you get something too easily you never realize its value.
It’s only after I had my son and wanted to give him the best of everything that I realized how privileged I had been. When he was two in the winter of 2015, I ran out of honey that comes from my village – the Shahi Lychee Raw Honey – and that is when my story began. I ordered a bottle of honey online from what appeared to a good brand.
I have never really had any other honey besides this and never understood what the big deal was until my order from Amazon arrived. The honey that came tasted very different from what I had been eating all my life and not just in terms of taste and flavor but also with respect to texture and quality. It tasted almost synthetic for lack of a better word. I was thoroughly disappointed to say the least and desperately wanted to find out why there was such a big difference between two types of honey. Thus began my quest .
After doing some research on the topic I discovered that trees were being cut all across the country, honey bees were dying and good beekeeping practices were slowly deteriorating. Because of this getting good quality honey was becoming next to impossible and more often than not the Beekeeper wasn’t paid well enough to keep his bees properly. A lot of beekeepers had to resort to bad beekeeping practices to make sure they get more honey rather than good honey.
This made me want to do something for the place I came from. I wanted to give back to the beekeepers and farmers of Bihar and at the same time wanted to make available genuine raw Shahi Lychee honey to the world. This led to the conceptualization and creation of Indian Summer Food.
Thus began Indian Summer, a venture to promote the natural and organic food products of Bihar. Bihar being in the Indo- Gangetic plain has naturally fertile soil which is an asset of the state. Yet the farmers of Bihar are extremely poor and don’t make enough money to be able to provide well for their families.
At Indian Summer, we are building a more sustainable environment. This is done by creating a platform for the poor primary producers of the State by providing them direct market access and giving them better rates for their produce.
Providing market access helps them increase profitability and enhance their livelihood directly or indirectly. In addition a part of our proceeds are also invested to educate and improve the livelihood of beekeepers and marginal farmers of Bihar. We also educate children on the importance of bees to the environment. The aim is not just to take from our land but also to give back to the society and the land we belong to.
This Lychee is more attractive in appearance, sweeter in taste, pulpier and has a very thin seed compared to other Lychees. For years people have tried to grow this variety in various other places but because of the difference in soil, weather conditions and water this variety can only grow in North Bihar. Also, this fruit is harvested only once a year making it a rather special and seasonal fruit.
The Shahi Lychee recently (2018) also got a GI (Geographical Indication) tag indicating an assurance of quality and distinctiveness. In addition the honey produced in this part has a distinct flavor as it is acquired from a place with a warm and humid climate thereby ensuring that it is light textured and not thick like other honey. It has a sweet mellow taste and a lovely fragrance. Pale and translucent in color, it’s also low in sucrose (natural sugar).
Consider yourself lucky if you find some white froth on top of your runny honey-effervescence is natural in this honey. This is also a sign that it is raw. This honey is 100% natural, unheated, chemical and pesticide free without any sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives or stabilizers. The USP of this honey is the taste because of the location from where pollen is collected. It’s much thinner in texture as it’s slightly high on moisture.
While there are other thin textured honeys, like acacia honey they don’t taste anything like this honey. Also being slightly thin in texture it takes longer to crystallize which makes it a baker’s delight.
Our bee keepers use Apis mellifera also known as European or Italian Bee. These Bees are used by more than 70% of beekeepers in India. They give a very good yield and are easy to domesticate. We do not sugar feed our bees.
We are trying to educate our beekeepers to leave some honey behind in the bee box for the bees. Also when we extract honey we make sure that we do not kill the bees, destroy or crush the honeycomb. The bees are not given any kind of heavy antibiotics because whatever is fed to the bees ends up getting in the honey too.
In short we try to the best of our abilities to ensure that this gift from Mother Nature reaches homes safely without any contamination, heating, processing, pasteurizing and mixing. All we do is take the honey, filter it, bottle it and deliver it.
Benefits Of Raw Honey
Raw Honey is considered a super food which means it is full of nutrients considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. It has a variety of health benefits and medical uses and is even used in some hospitals as a treatment for wounds. The operative word here though is “raw” honey. Most of the honey you find in grocery stores is pasteurized or heated.
This is because the high heat kills unwanted yeast, improves the color and texture, removes crystallization and extends the shelf life. But this also means that many of the beneficial nutrients get destroyed. Hence one should always consume raw honey in order to enjoy its benefits.
Raw honey is a powerhouse of antioxidants which are helpful in the removal of free radicals from the body and in slowing down the aging process. Raw honey has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help improve the digestive system, speed up metabolism and help in weight loss.
Consumption of raw honey has shown to increase polyphonic antioxidants in the blood that are helpful in preventing heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels in patients.
Raw honey has also shown to have immune boosting and anti cancer benefits. It is also a great cure for mouth sores and ulcers not to mention a fantastic cough suppressant.
Raw honey is also a great wound healer and skin moisturizer due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
As you can see raw honey is nothing short of an elixir – healing everything from the smallest cut to the most serious health issue.
According to Ayurveda this could be because raw honey has a very high pranic content, contributing to its effectiveness not only in physical ailments but also in increasing the pranic energy of all those who consume it – “good for the body, good for the soul”.
(The author, Arunima Sahu is the owner of Indian Summer Food, the only producer of Shahi Lychee Raw Honey in the world today. She is passionate about good, clean food and healthy and sustainable living and hopes to one day bring indigenous food products of Bihar to everyone in the world and also help provide direct market access to farmers for their produce so they can make a better living.)
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