One of man's oldest sweeteners, honey is produced when the saliva of the bees that collect it breaks down the sugar (sucrose) in the nectar of flowers.

The bees may forage on several flowers, or on areas where a single plant variety dominates, which creates distinctive varieties such as lavender, pine, heather and acacia honeys. Blended honey is a mix of several types to give a consistent flavour.

Honey is available runny (or clear), set, or as waxy honeycomb. The only difference between runny and set honeys is the degree of natural crystallisation.

Honey can be drizzled over yoghurt and cream as a sweet sauce or flavouring. When used in cakes it helps to keep them moist longer.

It is good used in barbecue marinades and bastes, as well as in Chinese and Greek cooking. Don't use expensive speciality varieties if the honey is to be cooked at high temperatures as the distinctive flavour will be lost.