A product stolen from thousands of unpaid workers may seem an unlikely ethical food. Worse, they give their lives for it. A pound of clover honey requires nectar from eight million flowers. The lifetime production of a single worker bee is about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. This solitary natural source of sweetness was purloined from wild bees before the insect was domesticated around 8,000 years ago.
At the risk of sounding like Barbara Cartland, I have become an ardent convert to the golden goo. Finding local honey on sale in most food shops (with the weird exception of supermarkets) near our holiday home on the Yorkshire coast, I discovered a new addiction – the jars produced by Yorkshire Honey, a 40-year-old family business based near Malton. I started with hefty, almost tannic heather honey but switched to borage honey. With superb finesse of flavour, it stays clear and runny. Sadly, my discovery came too late. "They've stopped growing it," said YH's Marcus Cordingley.
Output from his 300 hives, each containing 60,000 bees at summer peak, recently halved to five tons. Along with loss of borage (a pharmaceutical feedstock no longer required), the main reason is a series of damp summers. Fortunately, there is no sign in this country of the "colony collapse disorder" that has ravaged hives in North America and Europe. With 44,000 beekeepers in the UK, there is honey still for tea. "Particularly good with buttered wholemeal bread," says Cordingley, though I also like a dollop stirred into a mug of warm milk.
Machu Picchu Peruvian organic ground coffee from Café Direct. This Fairtrade grind of Arabica beans makes most other coffees seem one-dimensional.
Veal from Helen Browning Organics. Another unlikely ethical product, but this Wiltshire farm stresses humane treatment.
Mackerel from British fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Of the 57 MSC-certified sustainable fisheries around the world, four have been awarded to British mackerel fleets. As well as being cheap, healthy and plentiful, these sleekly beautiful fish make excellent eating.