Honey, a source of natural sweetness.

Autumn reminds me of honey. It’s the colour of autumn leaves, smells of summer flowers and has that warming, nourishing quality that is so typical of autumn food. As well as tasting good it has valuable medicinal properties.

Wikipedia extract on honey…..

“In Hinduism, honey (Madhu) is one of the five elixirs of immortality (Panchamrita). The Vedas and other ancient literature mention the use of honey as a great medicinal and health food".

In Ayurveda, honey is considered to positively affect all imbalances of the body. It is heavy, dry and cold. It promotes the healing process.

Some wound gels which contain antibacterial raw honey and have regulatory approval are now available to help treat drug-resistant strains of bacteria. New Zealand's Manuka honey has been studied in clinical trials as an topical antibiotic (see Research pages and http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/honey/special.shtml). Studies have also shown that eating  honey improves memory, decreases anxiety and promotes weight loss, when used as a sugar substitute ….but all the studies are in rats! I'll bet they were happy rats.

What is Manuka honey and why is it so famous?

Manuka honey is produced by European bees from pollen collected from the tea tree (Manuka or Leptospermum). Manuka is native to Australia and New Zealand and is a small spikey evergreen, not to be confused with the melaleuca tea-tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), that is the source of an essential oil, well known for it’s  anti-fungal and antibiotic properties.

Manuka honey has a manuka pollen count of more than 70%. It is a dark, strongly flavoured honey with thixotropic properties: it is normally gel-like, and only liquefies when stirred. The honey is quite acidic, with a pH range from 3.4 to 5. Honey is mainly fructose and glucose,  with traces amounts of antioxidents, vitamins and minerals. Traces of  aromatic acids, (malic acid, formic, acetic, etc) come from the flowers, adding to the aroma and taste of the honey.  

Typical honey composition (from Wikipedia)

Fructose: 38.2%

Glucose: 31.3%

Maltose: 7.1%

Sucrose: 1.3%

Water: 17.2%

Complex  sugars: 1.5%  

Other/undetermined: 3.2%

Its glycemic index ranges up to 78, depending on the variety.

Honey has a density of about 1.36 kilograms per litre (36% denser than water).


Warming food with honey and autumn vegetables

In our modern world we tend to lose track of the seasons, but the best nutritious and tastiest food is still that eaten fresh, in season. Autumn is the prime season for wonderful fruit and vegetables. The latter include:



Asparagus, Broccoli and Broccolini

Adds crunch and colour to stir-fries, risotto and pasta sauce. Lovely greens to go with roast meat.


Adds colour and flavour to many dishes and is a great addition to a selection of roast vegetables. 

Brussel sprouts and cabbage

The boiled-to-death version served by our grandmothers may have coloured our view of these veges, yet baby sprouts cooked with olive oil with garlic and mild chilli are delicious. Cabbage is great in a spicy curry or soup as it picks up and adds to the spice flavours.


Sweet and mild, leeks are one of the best additions to your Autumn kitchen. Sauté them with a little butter, garlic and a squeeze of lemon or add them to the soup pot to make the most of their characteristic flavour and aroma. Just remember that they need a mild heat and a gentle hand to bring out their sweetness.

Parsnips Carrots, Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

These sweet, earthy underground vegetables are great baked, or used to add texture colour and bulk to soups and stews.


The ultimate autumn vegetable, with colour, texture and tastes of the season. Great in soups, stew and curies.


Autumn recipes

The best nutritious and tastiest food is still that eaten fresh, in season. Visit your local market or community garden, or grow your own, for the freshest organic produce.

Autumn in Europe is harvest festival time, when people celebrate the abundance of fruit and vegetables with feasts and thanks giving. In Australia this is also the prime time for fresh apples, pears and citrus fruit. Chestnuts, almonds and walnuts are harvested, grapes are picked and wine bottled. In earlier times, fruit and vegetables were preserved, honey, cheeses, wine and butter stored for the winter.

Autumn is the time to think about warming, non-fattening foods, with both honey all those wonderful harvest time fruits and vegetables. Traditionally honey is used on porridge and the first recipe included is for a warming Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, with fruit that is fresh and available in many varieties in autumn.

Honey is also a good substitute for sugar in other dishes, such as in the spicy stews from the middle East. The Seven Vegetable couscous uses many of the autumn harvest vegetables with warming spices and fortifying honey.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

This hearty breakfast dish is packed with cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre. Leaving the apple skin on contributes even more fibre. Most of the fat is a healthy monounsaturated fat from the nuts.

Ingredients (2 serves)

• 1 apple, cored and coarsely chopped (or other fruit eg berries, apricots, rhubarb)

• 1 cup rolled oats

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• Pinch salt

• 2 cups water

• 1 tablespoon honey

• 1/4 cup toasted pecans, walnuts or almonds


Combine the apple, oats, cinnamon, and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl water, and stir in the water. Cover and seal with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid and heat in the microwave on high until apples are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in the honey. Divide between 2 bowls and top with the nuts. Serve immediately.


Seven-Vegetable Couscous

Ingredients (serves 4)

Seven-Vegetable Stew:

• 3 cloves garlic, smashed

• 2 small turnips or parsnips, peeled and sliced

• 1 medium yellow onion, quartered lengthwise, root end intact

• 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

• 1/3 cup raisins  

• 1 tablespoon peeled, chopped, fresh ginger

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon honey

• 2 teaspoons each ground cumin, turmeric, paprika, and sugar  

• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half

• 2 cups water

• 1 cup of butternut pumpkin cut in 1cm cubes

• 1 small zucchini, cut into 2-inch rounds

• 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

• 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, tied together with kitchen string

• 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes


• 2 cups cold water

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 1/2 cups uncooked couscous

• 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

• Harissa (Tunisian hot sauce) or Tabasco sauce


For the stew: Put the garlic, parsnips/turnips, onion, carrot, fennel, raisins, ginger, salt, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon in a large soup pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are somewhat soft, about 10 minutes. Tie parsley sprigs together with kitchen string. Add pumpkin, zucchini, chickpeas, and parsley sprigs to the pot. Add tomatoes to the pot with their juices. Simmer the stew, covered, until it is slightly thick and fragrant, and the vegetables are fork tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. (You can test the vegetables a bit sooner, remove them as soon as they are tender, and return them to the pot when you are ready to serve. All the vegetables should be tender enough to cut with the side of a fork, but still hold their shapes.) Remove cinnamon sticks and parsley bundle.

For the couscous: Bring water to a boil with the oil and salt in a small saucepan. Stir in the couscous, pull the saucepan off the heat, cover, and set aside until the water has been absorbed and the couscous is plump, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork.

Recipes adapted from : http://www.foodnetwork.com                                      




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