Of Maltese Honey, Beekeepers, and Hives

5 January 2016

Long before Malta attracted tourists, its tranquil climes invited another type of visitor: beekeepers.  Heralded in ancient times as Melita—a word that possibly links to “honey”—the island provided an ideal setting for raising hives.  Today, this Maltese product remains world famous with its rainbow of colours and enticing flavours. Book your flights to Malta and discover the buzz behind this delicious and healthful product. 

Some of the oldest and most fascinating aspects of bee keeping are found up north.  Xemxija village features a marvellous collection of Roman hives that are carved into limestone cliffs.  It’s well worth your time, since the wild scenery provides a worthy setting for history lovers and nature enthusiasts.  A more current experience can be found in Mellieha.  Named in part for honey, this town comprises one of Malta’s main apiary zones.  As you hike past wild thyme and drink in the rumpled landscape, keep your eyes peeled for modern hives and roadside stalls.  

Maltese honey is just as enticing as anything else on the island.  For one thing, the flavours are simply delightful.  Wild thyme, citrus, carob, eucalyptus, and wildflower are the most common varieties.  Naturally, these essences are based on seasonality.  Malta’s genial Mediterranean climate lets bees harvest over 1,000 different species of flowers all year round.  
Another intriguing aspect is colour.  Unlike the generic golden kind sold in supermarkets, Maltese honey ranges from pale to dark.  Spring honey—like multiflora—has a pearly glow while autumnal types, like carob, are dusky and black.  Above all, this local product is unique; Apis Mellifera Ruttneri, a subspecies of bee, is native to Malta.  Should you need a special souvenir, a jar or two of honey makes an excellent choice. 

Honey also imparts numerous health benefits.  Highly antiseptic, it deters bacteria and mould with complex proteins and flavonoids.  Many doctors believe that honey might unlock the key to antibacterial immunity.  Other claims are less scientific.  Various people insist, for example, that wildflower honey lessens allergic reactions by gently exposing sufferers to pollen.  Yet one cannot deny that honey is psychologically pleasing.  Soothing and aromatic, it tames sore throats when added to hot tea or imparts a calming scent to soap and candles.  

If you are looking for something different to do in Malta, follow the bees to the Maltese hives.  


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