Mead: The Nectar of the Gods

Archaeologists found evidence of the earliest use of honey in rock drawings that dated back to 15000 BC. Historians concluded that the “primitive” tribal cultures “sought out the most calorically rich food sources available at any given time in the annual cycle of plant growth and animal behavior” (Schramm 4).

Honey was the prized food for consumption because of its nutritional value. Honey provides instant energy through its composition of fructose and glucose. Honey is also high in vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, B6, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. It also has minerals such as copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous. Honey also has antioxidant properties, is fat-free, and cholesterol-free. One tablespoon of honey has 64 calories.The following are nutrition facts in 1 cup of honey.

honey-nutrition-1honey-nutrition-2

Mead has been referenced in literature as “wines as sweet as honey”. It’s definition is honeyed wine. Historians postulate that the discovery of honey’s fermentation properties was actually an accident. The earliest humans gathered honey and attempted to store it in a watertight container, but it actually spoiled or rather “fermented” and was still consumed despite its transformation into an alcoholic state. Ken Schramm gives a wonderfully detailed illustration of how the first fermentation process possibly began:

“A group of paleolithic hunters (European, Mesopotamian, Indian or African, take your pick) prepares to embark on a hunting expedition of unknown but presumably significant duration. They fill their water skins and set out. Early on in their hunt, the dominant make comes across a hive of bees, and, not wanting to pass up a food source, drains off some of his water and fills the skin with the honey from the hive. In the interest of preserving the honey for the rest of the tribe (or in the interest of keeping it all for himself), the honey water is carried for the rest of the hunt and he drinks a lower-ranking male’s water…spontaneous fermentation ensues and by the time the hunting party returns from the hunt, a magical transformation has taken place. The honey water is mood elevating, and makes the female members of the tribe more receptive to sexual advance.”

Following that, it is said that the word “honeymoon”  actually comes from the tradition of bestowing a month’s supply of mead (one cycle of the moon) to the happy couple in order to improve their chances of bearing children.

Whatever your reasons are in mead-making, you have chosen a hobby that possesses a historical and cultural value. I urge you to purchase The Complete Meadmaker by Ken Schramm. The book serves as a detailed but necessary guide to any mazer.

The following are resources I found very informative about honey:

1. Honey Nutrition Facts

2. Benefits of Honey

3. Honey

4.  Medicinal Uses of Honey

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