Honey, I’m here (forever)!

Spring Visitors

Two years ago I went through the educational experience of finding a bee hive in my fence! I learned how bees follow their queen, set up shop, stay as long as you let them AND if you call a company like 3 Bee Guys they will safely remove them and take them to their bee farm. That certainly took the sting out of the event.

The bees are safely vacuumed out and taken to a bee farm

Today I had one of those flashbacks on Facebook about the incident (this happened two years ago and I blogged about it here). Coincidentally, I found a conversation regarding honey. In our household, we throw out food items by their ‘best by’ dates and certainly after an expired date, though I’ve read that sometimes these are more suggestions. Your nose and eyes do a good job of telling you whether you should eat something!

What I did not know is that honey, good old-fashioned bee honey that you buy from the market, basically has no expiration date. Ever.

What makes this even more interesting is that while rice and sugar and salt also last forever, honey is one of those food items that tastes and works (sore throat, anyone?) just like the first day those bees created this dripping delight. Even if that happened centuries ago. In fact, archeologists have found honey in Egyptian tombs that is thousands of years old and it’s ready to spread! As edible as the day it was made!

What gives honey its staying power?

For such a food product to be possible requires a perfect combination of ingredients and honey is pretty perfect. I found a terrific article from the Smithsonian magazine which explains all this, so here are the salient points:

First, honey is sugar which contains very little moisture and is extremely acidic in terms of its pH value. Bacteria and other organisms don’t find honey a very hospitable place to grow because there is no moisture in it. Other sugar products last a long, long time -- like molasses -- but eventually will spoil. Why not honey? Bees!

Bees dry out the moisture-rich nectar when making the honey and when regurgitating the nectar from their mouths into the honeycomb their stomachs supply an enzyme that creates hydrogen peroxide -- and that plays an added role in keeping bacteria away. You know to put hydrogen peroxide on a cut or wound to kill any bacteria and honey was used in exactly the same way before you could just buy hydrogen peroxide at the drugstore!

The last thing that keeps honey forever is a good seal as leaving it out will eventually spoil it. However:

If you buy your honey from the supermarket, that little plastic bottle of golden nectar has been heated, strained and processed so that it contains zero particulates, meaning that there’s nothing in the liquid for molecules to crystallize on, and your supermarket honey will look the same for almost forever....The Smithsonian magazine.

UPDATE: After publishing this blog yesterday, I heard from Patrick Coyne of Santa Ana River Valley Honey Company who noted the following:

Enjoyed your article on honey. It was mostly accurate but there were two details that were slightly off.

1) Honey has some water. Most experts specify 17% or less water content is necessary to prevent honey from fermenting.

2) Tests around the world consistently find about 50% of the honey on store shelves is diluted with sweeteners. Only lab testing can detect the most sophisticated sweeteners....Usually, the best source for real raw honey is a local beekeeper. Raw honey is not pasteurized or filtered, leaving all the nutrients and pollen the bees put into it.

Best wishes, Patrick Coyne

Thanks for the info, Patrick!

Still, at the end of the day, the container holding the honey will likely disintegrate before the honey goes bad!

Have a great day and enjoy the rest of your Spring Break week!

Frank

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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.