A sweet find for honey’s shelf life
Wait! Don’t throw out the jar of honey in your pantry! A recent article advised readers to dispose of and replace honey after one year. I am writing to inform readers that honey, when sealed in air tight containers and not contaminated, is one of nature’s unique foods that will keep indefinitely in its natural state.
Smithsonian Magazine published an article in Aug 2013 headlined “The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life.” It states, “A slew of factors – its acidity, its lack of water and the presence of hydrogen peroxide – work in perfect harmony, allowing the sticky treat (honey) to last forever.” The article concludes that honey, when sealed tightly, does not spoil because its low moisture content prevents micro-organisms from growing.
The Smithsonian article continues, “Modern archeologists, excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, have often found something unexpected amongst the tombs’ artifacts: pots of honey, thousands of years old, and yet still preserved. Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.”
Ripe honey is capped by the honey bees when its water content is reduced to 17 to 18 percent. If honey is harvested before it is ready, or is stored where it can absorb moisture, it may ferment or spoil. However, this is almost unheard of, as honey producers monitor moisture content and work hard to provide a high quality, long-lasting product for their customers.
Many people mistakenly assume that crystallized honey is spoiled. All natural honey will eventually crystallize because it is a super-saturated solution. In most parts of the world, except the USA, crystallized honey is the standard. If you prefer your honey to be liquid, containers can be placed in very warm (not boiling) water until the crystals dissolve. There is no loss of nutritional value or quality in this process.
Honey is an extraordinary natural food. Consider these “fun facts”: in its short lifetime, a worker bee produces about 5 drops of honey, bees from one hive visit about 225,000 flowers per day, bees have to visit 2 million flowers to collect enough nectar to produce one pound of honey.
The Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association was established in January, 1870. In proposing the creation of the association, James M. Beebe of Cassadaga, Chair of the first meeting, stated, “This county is one of the best in the state of New York for beekeeping. No better honey is carried to the New York or Chicago markets than the honey from Chautauqua County.”
I strongly encourage readers to buy locally produced honey which is usually available at farmer’s markets, health food stores, and regional markets in season. Store honey in airtight containers at room temperature, and enjoy this fabulous sweetener in to the very last drop in the jar.
Laura LaMonica is president of Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association.