Imagine an island where people don’t ‘manage’ nature—nature takes care of itself. The flowers, trees and bushes that grow do so because they are pollinated by bees. The people have a non-interference policy. They love their wild and natural landscape and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ikaria is mountainous and only 99-square miles in total, roughly measuring 30 miles long and 6 miles wide. This Greek island is close to the coast of Turkey in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is a unique island due to rare topographical and geographical features and the advanced age of its healthy residents.
Ikaria was named for the legendary Icarus, who fell to the sea near this island when the heat of the sun melted his wings. Therma, famous for over 3,000 years for the healing power of its spring waters, is just 2 miles north of the capital, Agios Kirikos. The well-preserved remains of a temple to the goddess Artemis Tauropolos are on the north side of the island.
This 4:02-minute long CBS Sunday Morning video takes you on location to Ikaria to learn the secrets of this amazing honey.
If this sounds like an idyllic paradise, that’s because it is. People who live here have found a way to live in harmony and balance with nature. About one-third of the population of 8,300 people are aged 90 or older.
Some of the countless blossoms available to the native bees are nectar-producing wild lavender and thyme and wild oregano, which are totally natural and act as low ground cover. The spring white heather tree produces grey pollen and darker-than-usual nectar, while the fall white heather tree tastes stronger and produces intense protein. The Greek strawberry tree is really a bush, but it produces white pollen and lots of nectar, and the akoniza bush has rich pollen but little nectar. Pine trees are abundant and thrive in parts of Ikaria, and there are many other types of flora on Ikaria for the bees.
Indigenous bees collect pure nectar and pollen, since there is no organized commercial farming on the island and therefore no herbicides, pesticides, insecticides or chemicals are used. There is no air or water pollution. The bees enjoy blossoming trees and shrubs in both spring and fall, so there are no concerns about them making it through the winter or summer.
The fabled honey produced here is pure, unheated, unpasteurized, and natural. It is medium to dark brown and has a rich flavor unlike other honeys, even in Greece. The dark color comes from the pine trees, island flora and herbs on Ikaria.
Not only do one of every three people on that island live to be in their 90's, they outlive nearly everyone else in the world. Disease rates are lower than elsewhere, but amazingly there is no dementia or Alzheimers to be found in the islanders. As you can imagine, scientific and medical research into the Ikarian longevity is being funded by National Geographic and AARP. Dan Beuttner, who wrote “The Island Where People Forgot to Die” for the New York Times in 2012, named Ikaria one of the 5 “Blue Zones” of the world for longevity. He said the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial honey has anti-cancer properties.
Is it any wonder that the Ikarian people love their bees and their honey? Most of them consume it every day and swear by it as their personal healing regimen.
If you ever have a chance to visit this magical island, far from the stresses and pressures of 21 century living, your heart will be filled with the natural beauty, the friendly people who live a simple life, and the gifts of the native honeybees.