First, let’s start off with defining what’s meant by “Paleo”. The catch-word “Paleo” is a shortened version of the word “Paleolithic”, an era of about 90,000 years from 100,000 to 10,000 BCE depending on which part of the world is being discussed. It’s essentially the beginning of what we call the Stone Age, during which time Homo sapiensidaltu (“knowing man”), most famously Neanderthal, lived.
About 1.5 million years before him lived Homo erectus or “upright man” and Homo habilis or “tool using man”. It’s within the range of Homo sapiensidaltu that the Paleo lifestyle diet is based (modern man is Homo sapiens sapiens).But there’s reason to believe that even “upright man” and “tool using man” ate what’s today referred to as Paleo, namely anything they could get their hands on that existed naturally at the time.
Agriculture had not been invented yet and wouldn’t be for another 90,000 years, and people ate what was regional, seasonal and tasty. There were no cultivated fruits or vegetables the way we know them today, and there were no “grains”, just wild grasses. In fact, everything was wild including tree fruits, bush berries, vines, roots and tubers, nuts and seeds, and animals. Paleolithic man did not domesticate and milk the saber-toothed tiger or the wild mountain goat. He did not have milk to drink. Everything was eaten raw because fire wasn’t discovered until about half way through the era, somewhere around 6000 BCE.
Tribes were hunters of animals and gatherers of everything else, and among the things they gathered was honey. Honey is a wild food produced by bees, and bees have been around as long as there have been plants, about 100 million years, at least according to the oldest discovered fossil of a bee embedded in amber.
Does that make honey Paleo?Absolutely. If Stone Man (or woman) could figure out how to get the honeycomb away from the bees at the right time, that time being when the honeycomb was full and most of the bees were out of the hive, there would be plenty of the sweet energy-giving syrup to go around. It was probably some time, however, before they figured out when that optimal time was. A hive would need to be filled with cured honey – honey that’s been drawn from the plant into the honey sac of the bee, withdrawn from that bee’s honey sac by another bee, then placed into the compartment and fanned to dry for several weeks.
Stone Man may have had limited resources (he didn’t have bee brushes, bee blowers or honeycomb frames), but he probably wasn’t stupid. Which is why he evolved into “thinking man”. Eventually, he realized that when all the little pockets were filled and capped and all the bees were gone so he wouldn’t get stung, he could pull the hive out and begin to eat the honey.
And honey could be made all year long. Plants bloom at different times of the year and nectar could have been gathered from clover, goldenrod, wild sage, dandelion, lavender, yarrow, and teasel. Is honey Paleo? It’s likely one of the oldest and most “Paleo” foods that every existed.