Menorca in Spring is covered in flowers. Wild joyful ones, carefree and colourful with tall stems and bright petals. So many poppies lining old stone walls, gates made of wild olive wood and bristling against ancient UNESCO world heritage monuments, occasionally a donkey, some cows or some sheep. There are wild orchids too, tiny and discreet. Up to 25 types. I found one hiding on a walk to the seashore.
The Wild Flowers of Menorca
There are over 900 types of wild flowers recorded there. Menorca doesn’t have an Autumn, instead they call it Winter-Spring, in reference to the wild flowers that flourish at that time of year. So, it isn’t inaccurate so to call the honey produced in Menorca thousand flower honey. There are hives dotted throughout the island. Sebastià Pons has 350 dotted along 8 locations on the island. Sebastià is the producer of Miel S’eixam (along with all of those busy bees), a raw honey produced and sold in season.
Visiting Miel S’eixam hives
Down winding Menorcan country roads, through fields rich with flowers and past some curious cows we found some of Sebastià’s hives. It was an overcast day, which was a good thing, as his bees can become agitated in the heat. They are part African bee (he had some genetic analysis done), and they are aggravated by red and black, which were the colours that I was wearing that day. Bad planning but not to worry, I had a full beekeeper outfit, complete with hat, to protect me from any unwarranted bee attention. Although Sebastià was keen to stress that he allows himself to be stung on occasion as he believes it is good for him, citing back pain in particular (and there is scientific evidence that the immune reaction to bee stings can be beneficial for other situations).
I watched the bees fly in and out and could not help but think of those two terms busy bees and mind your own beeswax. I watched them return to their hives with the pollen attached to their legs as tiny perfect cylinders (pollen is bee protein, and is very good for us too). A separate hive had started to form in a nearby bush, which I walked to through wild flowers as tall as me (and that would be 5ft 3!). Sebastià had placed a box nearby for them.
The Benefits of Raw Honey
Raw honey is unpasteurised and so has not been subjected to the heat that can strip honey of its health benefits and breadth of flavour. Local raw honey helps with hay fever too, and it has to be local, as what you are doing when you are eating it, is inoculating yourself with local pollen, and getting your body used to it before the onslaught of the season. It is rich with antioxidants, and minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. It is vitamin rich, containing B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin. Raw honey also mops up free radicals and there is evidence that shows it enables significant suppression and prevention of cell damage. We focus too much on the fact that it is sweet and confuse it with processed white sugar. Honey has long been a valuable energy resource for us, and a health food.
Miel S’eixam was not yet available (it sells speedily when in season, and the season has yet to start this year), and raw honey is hard to come by at home but it is available if you look for producers in your area. I get excellent local raw honey at my farmers market in Balham, London of varying types depending on the location of the hives. I buy 3 types: forest, lime and borage (the borage is said to be particularly good for hay fever). They have pollen too, which is dried (and this removes a lot of the properties) but with notice they can get me some frozen pollen which is still very good.
If you are lucky enough to be in Menorca during honey season, make sure to get some. And have it with sobrassada as the locals do.
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I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca, who sponsored this project. As always, I have complete editorial control.