You know when spring comes and buds come out, with a shiny coating that protects them before they burst into full flower. Now imagine that shiny coating transformed into something that could coat your own skin when you’ve grazed yourself, or your throat when it’s sore, the inside of your mouth when you have an ulcer…
Propolis is the magic substance harvested by bees from the spring buds. In the hive it’s used for its antiseptic properties (I’ve read of how any mouse intruding into a hive will be stung to death by the bees and since they can’t remove it, its body is then coated with propolis to stop the putrefaction which would be damaging for the health of the colony) but also as a filler since its stickiness makes it ideal for plugging gaps.
I am now a convert to propolis. Whether in cream form for cuts, stings and bites, or mixed into the wonderful face mask made by the Gjakova ‘Safe House’ women’s shelter, or mixed with raki brandy as a tincture to be used for mouth ulcers, this has now replaced Savlon, Olay and TCP in my locavore minimal pharmaceutical medicine cabinet.
But today is the first time I’ve tried it when I haven’t had anything wrong with me! The reason is that I’ve found a jar of honey mixed with propolis. Given how much I love beechwood honey’s medicinal taste, I thought I would probably like this. Let’s see…
It’s mustard yellow and viscous, with the slightly phenol smell you might expect though the scent has more of the sweet alcoholic tingle of fermentation than the alcohol swab.
Unusually, the taste is very close to the smell. There’s more fruitiness here, though, on the same scale towards alcoholic. I’m thinking now more of a Muscat wine, though the aftertaste has a surprising dry acrid kick like applewood smoke and pepper – which makes me think this is better for me than a glass of Beaumes de Venise.
It’s a honey that I’d like to try stirred into yoghurt, or which would go well with fruit – for soaking apricots in, or stewing with apples. It will also be the perfect thing to mix with hot lemon the next time I have a cold. I almost can’t wait.
For more honey-tasting adventures in Kosovo, see my book Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published last year by Signal Books