Facts and Myths about our favorite sweetener, HONEY

November 6, 2018

With all the buzz about disappearing bees and the emergence of many new beekeepers,

honey is finding its way onto our daily table and becoming a part of our food culture. Yet there is very little information available for consumers to make informed choices. So I want to share with you a few facts to demystify the common preconceptions about our favorite sweetener.

 

 

 

1) Honey never spoils and never needs refrigeration. Archaeologists have discovered clay vessels filled with honey, wine and olive oil – more than 3,000 years old – in the tombs of the Pharaohs. The wine and olive oil had spoiled but the honey remained intact and still edible. Honey is best consumed freshly harvested and will loose its delicate flavors as it ages. Although honey will last forever, it will not taste good or hold its health benefits.

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2) If your honey has crystallized, that does not mean it has gone bad, in fact it is a sign of quality. If you gently warm the bottle by standing the bottle in hot water and gently stirring it— it will return to its liquid state. Take care not overheat it as this compromises the delicate flavors. Microwaving is not recommended.

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3) All honey is not equal, and each honey’s color, aroma and flavor varies depending upon its terroir – region, soil, and climate, and the type of blossom nectar gathered by the honeybee. Honey is an agricultural product of nature. Like apples and tomatoes, each one will be different.

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4) What’s the buzz about local honey? Local is always wonderful to endorse, but in truth, any good quality honey has immune-boosting found in the pollen but more importantly its chemical composition. Many people swear by Manuka honey produced only in New Zealand for stomach bugs and ulcers. Look for honey that is freshly harvested and not entirely transparent, which often means the pollen has been filtered out. 

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5) If honey relieves allergies, how much should I take? There is no set dose for taking natural remedies. To each his own and only you know your body and what makes you feel well. A teaspoon a day is a good start. It can boost your immune system and relieve scratchy throats, symptoms of hay fever and allergies.

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6) What is raw honey? Pure honey is the only unprocessed sweetener found in nature. It has naturally occurring minerals and vitamins not found in other sweeteners and heating it at 120F for as little as a few seconds can destroy them. Commercially made honeys are often heated to high temperatures to prevent crystallization so chose fresh honey from a trusted source.

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7) Each worker honeybee will make just 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her entire life. So “pure” honey is truly rare! Beekeepers only produce 1/3rd of what we consume, so the demand for honey is high. Read the labels including the ingredients. Buy from reliable sources and ask questions about the bees and the local flowers.

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8) Honey is naturally hydrating to the skin, making it the perfect ingredient to add to your daily skin care routine. Try a honey facial mask for 10 minutes – your skin will glow!

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9) Can I eat the honeycomb and wax? Yes, you may eat the wax! Beeswax is a pure plant-based wax made by honeybees to build the cells that keep their honey clean and safe. For a special treat, spread honeycomb on a piece of warm toast.

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10) Is there truly such a thing as organic honey? Honeybees will forage up to 4 miles from their hive to gather nectar to make honey. It’s not possible to prevent them from visiting flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals whether by farmers or private homeowners. Organic standards vary so be sure to read the label.

 

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Excerpted from The Honey Connoisseur by Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum
Black Dog and Leventhal, 2013

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