bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Friday, September 03, 2004

Honey, that ain't honey

On my trip to Sri Lanka, I only saw Sri Lankan honey on sale in one shop. In fact there was hardly any honey on sale at all -- except for kitul palm honey, which isn't honey all, but is great with the local curd (yoghurt).

The kitul palm inflorescence yields copious amounts of nectar which is collected by intrepid tappers and then boiled to reduce its volume -- by about a sixth, which is, I believe, about the same reduction proportion as bees apply when converting nectar to honey. Quite why the kitul produces so much nectar (or sap as it is sometimes called) I'm not sure, but perhaps it is to encourage pollination by birds that would only be attracted by a hefty nectar reward. I can't seem to get a reliable answer to this one, so all comments welcome.

Kitul honey is a big contributor to the local economy in the lowland rain forests of Sri Lanka where it can involve a quarter of villagers and where production can contribute a very substantial $200 per hectare per year.


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