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Manuka and Me

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Rob West
Rob West

I have spent the last week dressed in a white suit so baggy, MC Hammer would have jiggled with jealousy. My face covered in mesh and the all over span of the suit looking like a bad attempt at a fencer's fancy dress,(Courtesy of my employer and host Stu who lent me the suit, however being about three and a half feet taller than most people, the suit was a tad big) I was however getting firmly stuck in to some apiaries. That's right, I spent a week bee-keeping, and before you try to smother guffaws and look for something better to read, hold out, as against all of my own assumptions bee-keeping is by no means a geeky past time suitable for only the super nerd and the over active entomologist but in fact exciting, awe inspiring and exhausting. (There is of course the possibility that I am both super nerd and over active entomologist.... a fairly strong one come to think about it, but there we go!)

I have found myself looking out over Cape Palliser's stunning beaches and charismatic sea lions, deep within the picturesque valleys in the surrounding area, paddling in the cool waters of it’s streams, studying the fascinating culture of the various species of honey bees in NZ and sweltering in temperatures apparently exceeding any yet recorded in the Wairarapa whilst hulking extraordinarily heavy honey and wax units from hive to ute and being hassled by seriously pissed off bees. From there we headed back to extract all the honey from its wax encased vaults, which took longer than the collection and though tedious at times, watching the thick golden honey ooze from the comb was frequently rewarding.

So what’s the point of this you ask? Well, manuka is the point, and despite having an extremely rewarding week it was all about the collection of this incredible natural creation. From a widely growing yet uncultivated bush that is found throughout New Zealand, and only here, which has wonderful properties, the bees collect nectar to make honey. These properties are then transferred into the honey, and alongside the already impressive healing properties of honey, creates a kind of super honey. All the antibacterial qualities that tend to fail in normal honey when they are applied for wound treatment are absolutely solid in manuka. Bizarrely, it is being utilised by some medical professionals for treatments, so if you are in hospital and someone starts smothering you in honey, it is not a slightly twisted attempt to excite you, or indeed an indicator of it imminently being licked off (shame that this is) but in fact an attempt to heal you (don’t let that stop you however from flirting outrageously with your nurse or doctor, as this is always going to help your chances of being attended to swiftly, or so my doctor friends tell me!)

Ok so what happens if you eat this wonder honey? Will it make you younger or thinner or give you x-ray vision? Well…no, it will however help in soothing any tummy pains or the like and eaten regularly will help give added vitality, improve digestive health, oral health and active immunity. So slather it on toast or use it in tea, manuka is definitely the honey for me (a wee rhyme for you to think on, feel free to use it to persuade friends to eat manuka or your mum put it on the shopping list)! Of course honey is also pretty good for the environment, bees being propagators and all, so spread the manuka love people.


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