6

In Dorothy L. Sayers' story, The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste we find this phrase: "‘No?’ said Bredon. His voice was like bean-honey now, sweet and harsh together."

This story appeared in her collection, Lord Peter Views the Body in 1928 — I do not know if it was published before that.

I have read of some African beans that are sometimes referred to as 'honey beans' but I doubt Dorothy Sayers would have heard of them, or risked such an unusual reference on her readers. I have also read of varieties of honeys that are produced from a variety of flowering beans (and they all sound very good) but this too seems unlikely ...

Is it possible that this was some ersatz product, caused by the rationing during the war?

1
  • 1
    Another possibility is like clover honey, it refers to the flowers of the original nectar.
    – Mary
    Commented Jun 20 at 1:02

1 Answer 1

8

Bean-honey is honey made by bees from the nectar of bean-flowers. I’ll give three citations:

Terrestrial or earthy Honey we call that, because the dew going away, it is suckt out of the very sweat of the earth, and the sweeter part of the plant, of a thick substance indeed, and a quality answerable to that from whence it was extracted. And from thence it takes the name of Grasse-honey, Bean-honey; Lilly-honey, Violet-honey, &c. respect being had to those things from which it is collected or gathered.

Edward Topsel, ed. (1658) The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, page 908. London: G. Sawbridge.

It is a circumstance that deserves notice, that by attention in the bee-master in the selection of food, almost any flavour or colour may be given to the honey, from the bright amber to a pale yellow. Mr. Paterson, of Castle-Huntley, in Scotland, found the flavour very delicate from minionette; it is the same from rosemary. Bean-honey is pale, and heath honey brown, with much difference in flavour.

R. W. Dickson (1813). The Farmer’s Companion, volume 2, page 920. London: Sherwood, Neely & Jones.

It must be remembered that when the beans are in bloom a very large amount of pollen is required by the bees, and is actually carried into the hive. In bean honey we find a good number of pollen grains, which prove that the hive bees do visit the blossoms largely in the legitimate way, and so are very instrumental in bringing about its fertilisation.

George Hayes (17 September 1914). ‘Nectar-producing Plants and Their Pollen’. In The British Bee Journal, volume 42, page 353.

1
  • Huh! And I guess Dorothy Sayers didn't much like it — I've never met a honey I didn't like ... but tastes differ.
    – Barnaby
    Commented Jun 20 at 17:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.