All About Honey
Honey: the thick, golden liquid produced by bees has been prized throughout the centuries and the world over. Known for its distinct sweetness, honey continues to be a staple in cooking and in home treatments for sore throat and skin complaints.
Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by bees, a result of insects extracting sugary secretions (nectar) from flowering plants.
History of Honey
Bees have produced honey for millions of years. Regarding beekeeping, or apiculture, sources and opinions vary as to when humans first started gathering honey by “keeping” bees. Ancient Egyptians began beekeeping around 2500 BC, though other sources indicate the practice started even earlier in China. And long before any actual beekeeping was practiced, humans gathered, or foraged, wild honey. In Spain’s Cueva de la Araña (Cave of the Spider), a cave painting dating from 9000 BC depicts a figure bravely climbing towards a hive, basket in hand, while bees buzz around. Though methods for collecting honey have evolved since then, one thing remains certain: honey’s popularity as an all-natural sweetener and an effective health salve.
Does Honey Expire?
Technically no, honey does not expire. So long as the liquid is stored in an airtight jar and kept away from excess moisture, honey remains safe to eat for decades (or longer). In fact, ancient Egyptian archaeological sites have yielded jars of honey dating thousands of years old…and the honey was still perfectly preserved. The reason for honey’s infinite shelf life lies in its biological makeup: with a high sugar content and low water content, honey is also antibacterial and has a low pH.
However, just because honey can last forever if stored correctly, doesn’t mean the liquid won’t undergo some changes. Honey can change colors and texture, going from clear to smoky, from smooth to granular. These changes are completely harmless unless the honey has been contaminated by bacteria, and/ or exposed to moisture. How to tell if honey has gone bad? A sour, instead of a sweet taste, is the classic sign.
Types of Honey
It may be easy to assume there’s only one type of honey, being that it is a golden liquid made by bees, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are over 300 types of honey in the US alone! This all comes down to what flowers bees take their nectar from, which affects the flavor and color of honey produced. For example, buckwheat nectar has a malty, molasses like taste and is nearly black in color, while the extremely popular clover honey is very light in color and has a sweet, mild taste.
Uses and Health Benefits of Honey
Besides its use as a salve for sore throat during colds, honey is also effective at treating burns, wounds, ulcers, herpes, psoriasis, etc. as it enhances healing. A study has also shown honey as being effective in stopping the growth of cancer cells, due to the antioxidants within the liquid. Honey is also a great sugar alternative as it is low glycemic, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar, unlike regular sugar.
Contributed by Dermot Jones