These Fascinating Medieval Food Habits Changed the Way We Eat Today

Monks became beekeepers and herbalists, producing honey for use as food and medicine. Wikimedia

3. Honey was a food, a medicine, and the source of alcoholic beverages

Honey from wild bees was obtainable for those with the nerve to face the swarming bees. By the medieval period, hives were being husbanded by beekeepers in apiaries, and honey was an important part of the diets in the European and Asian worlds. It was a sweetener for other foods and a food on its own. The comb was often eaten as well, or the wax was used for other purposes, such as the making of candles, or of wax seals for the wealthy. Bees became a symbol of wealth and luxury, and appeared on the arms of noble families. The sugars in the honey they made also became useful in the making of wines and a beverage called mead.

Mead was made in ancient times, as much as 7,000 years BCE in China, where it was made with honey and rice. In Norse mythology, mead was consumed by the ancient warriors and the gods, the city of Edinburgh, in Scotland takes its name from Din Eidyn, an ancient hall where mead was made and consumed. In the early medieval period in the monasteries, where herb and flower gardens were maintained for their medicinal value, apiaries also emerged, nurturing the bees which pollinated the plants. The monks harvested the honey, and used it to produce mead for consumption as well as beers and other liquors.