Dailymail London - I washed down the turkey with a glass of donkey milk. And the flavour was surprisingly pleasant, although I expected more of a kick.
It was reassuringly odourless, and looked and tasted just like skimmed cow’s milk, although a tad sweeter. But the real reason I downed the stuff is that, to some, it’s a veritable elixir. Hailed by the ancients as a cure for a variety of ailments and an anti-ageing skin tonic, donkey milk is enjoying a revival. And its popularity is likely only to grow further after Pope Francis this month revealed he was fed it as a baby in Argentina to supplement his mother’s milk.
Pieris Georgiadis is already a convert to its benefits. As the owner of Cyprus’s biggest farm producing the milk, he drinks it daily in its fresh, unpasteurised form. At 54, he’s only a year younger than me, but looks stronger and more youthful. ‘Donkey’s milk is a serious product,’ he assures me. Certainly, scientists are becoming increasingly interested in it.
The milk’s medicinal virtues were first heralded by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who recommended it to combat a host of bodily woes, including liver problems, fevers, infectious diseases, poisoning, joint pains and nose bleeds. The Romans later added constipation to that list. The use of donkey milk as a moisturiser in cosmetics is even more fabled, thanks to Cleopatra.
The Egyptian queen took a daily bath in it, with a steady stream of milk supplied by more than 700 lactating asses. The stuff ‘erases facial wrinkles, makes the skin more delicate and maintains the whiteness’, enthused Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman know-it-all. Of course, people have drunk it as part of their daily diet, too: fresh donkey milk was widely available in 19th-century London as an alternative to the highly adulterated cows’ milk sold by dairies. Now, with more and more people looking to avoid cow’s milk products because of dairy allergies, interest in alternatives is growing. Could donkey milk repeat the success of goat and sheep milk and, more recently, camel milk?
As it’s rich in lactose - a type of sugar - and low in fat, donkey milk is the closest animal milk to the human variety. Its nutritional properties may make it more suitable for the ‘2 to 6 per cent of the population’ who are allergic to cow milk, according to a UN study. Donkey milk is also vitamin-rich and contains anti-bacterial proteins and anti-allergens reputed to alleviate skin conditions.