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  • Just a Spoon Full of Honey...

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    8 posts, 7 voices, 1293 views, started Nov 3, 2012

    Posted on Saturday, November 3, 2012 by Nathalie Girard

    • Sapphire

      What Is Honey?  

      Honey is a sweet natural substance produced by bees. It is mainly a compostion of different sugars depending on the floral source (79%) and water (17%).  

      The beekeeper’s job is only to collect it and extract it from the frames. Nothing is added or eliminated.  

      But How Do They Make It?  

      Bees collect nectar from blossoms. Nectar is liquid, so bees store it in a kind of pouch called the honey stomach. It is closed by a valve that prevents the nectar to go any further in the digestive system unless needed. In this stomach, nectar is mixed with other bee substances, like an enzyme called « glucose oxidase ». This enzyme reacts to glucose and creates an antibacterial effect on the nectar.  

      Once the bee reaches the hive, nectar is passed on from bee to bee- therefore from honey stomach to honey stomach, until it arrives where it can be stored. But nectar is full of water and very liquid, it can ferment  and it takes a lot of space. Bees solve this problem by dehydrating it. They do this by ventilating it with their wings. Once water concentration reaches 17%, it takes up  a lot less space and is stabilized; it will not ferment. Bees then cap the cells- this is like putting it in jars to keep for rainy or cold days.

      Properties of Honey  

      Hard or soft?
      Most honeys eventually crystallize. Its rate of crystallization depends on its glucose-fructose ratio, which depends on the floral source. The higher its content in glucose, the faster it will crystallize. That is the case of colza or clover honey.  Beekeepers have less than a week to collect it before it crystalizes (it’s much much harder to extract if it crystalizes on the frame). On the  contrary, acacia honey is mostly fructose and can stay liquid for more than a year.  

      Taste of honey varies enormously from one kind to the next. It can be very mild like acacia honey, or very strong like chestnut or pine honey. Even if bees collect nectar in the same area each year, the taste will be slightly different: Mother Nature never repeats quite exactly the same weather which directly effects each blossom.

      The colour of honey simply varies depending on the nectar source. Colza, rawsberry or lavander honey are almost white. Dandilion honey is bright yellow like the flower. Pine honey is very dark.  

      In some countries, the colour of honey affects its price. In the USA for example, very light colored honey is considered « better quality » so it’s more expensive. In Germany, it’s the contrary: the darker, the better. In the end the colour is no quality indicator, but it can hint you on its taste: most dark honeys taste stronger.

      Antibacterial Quality
      Honey is hyper-osmotic (it absorbs water). This prevents bacterial or yeast growth as it litteraly sucks them dry. Honey is also very acid, making it uninviting to most bacterias.  

      Honeydew is different from regular honey because bees get it from aphid secretions as they feed on plant’s sap. Ants also love to feed on this. They sometimes raise colonies of aphids just to feed on their secretions, but that’s a whole different story... This liquid is still plant-derived but has insect enzymes added to it and generally has a broader spectrum of sugars. Its colour is often very dark.  

      Advantages of Honey  

      Honey has a prebiotic effect on human body, stimulating general growth. It also has an antibacterial effect; it can heal open infected wounds, burns and even ulcers. Some researchs show that it can prevent certain types of cancer (especially dark honeys).  

      Each type of monofloral honey has its own personnal effects. Orange honey calms and soothes. Limetree honey helps fall asleep. Lavander honey is an excellent antiseptic for bronchial tubes and lungs. Eucalyptus honey calms coughs. Acacia honey is recommended for gastric ulcers. Of course, multi-flower honey is more complete and has multitude of benefits for our bodies.

      Why Is Honey Made In China So Much Cheaper and Not As Healthy As Local Honey?  

      The first reason is obvious for many of us: labor is cheap. But that is not the only reason. Cheap labor explains low cost but not why it’s not as healthy as local honey. The answer is provided by what the bees are fed: sugar. In order to produce almost all year round, beekeepers feed their bees regular sugar. Sugar isn’t as complexe and rich as nectar, therefore creating a honey of lesser quality. Even worse: some honeys are directly diluted with a sugar sirop, so in the end your bottle of honey only has a small amount of real honey and a lot of sugar and water. All this is completely forbidden in France and many other countries.

      In the end you pay less to get less, plus you contribute to modern slavery (these people cannot improve their salaries or way of life as long as we keep buying these low cost products), and to Global Warming (planes generate a lot of CO2).  

      In Conclusion  

      Honey is a wonderful product that is not only yummy, but can also help you heal and prevent some illnesses. Mary Poppins said a spoon full of sugar helps the medecine go down, but a spoon full of honey is medecine... now you know better!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Cynthia Schmidt wrote Nov 3, 2012
        • this is great! I have known about the benefits of honey through the years but you’ve explained it so thoroughly and brought up some points that I had not known before. I used to live in Sequim, Washington which is considered the lavender growing capital of the United States. We had a local bee keeper who put his bee boxes throughout the local lavender fields. The honey he bottled was delicious. When I made chocolate professionally, I used honey in several of my fillings as a natural preservative and it worked very well to extend the shelf life.  

          thank you for bringing up the topic of honey and sharing your knowledge. Great information!!heartheartestatic

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Linda L wrote Nov 3, 2012
        • WOW, thank you for such an informative post on honey.  

          Once we purchased honey from a dispenser at a health food store. Unlike the honey you get in the cute bear bottle the honey from the dispenser was yummier and didn’t crystallize.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Marya1961 wrote Nov 3, 2012
        • Excellent info Mavikaya!  Recently when I was sick, I was literally drinking orange honey out of the tasted so good in the hot green tea and I absolutely believe between the honey and the chicken soup that I healed in two 1/2 weeks versus a month or longer in the past.


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          Tuliplady wrote Nov 3, 2012
        • I’ll share a few more bits of information that this article didn’t really make clear.  

          In the USA, lighter colored honey is considered better quality and therefore more expensive as the article stated.  The reason for this is twofold.  One, it has a very mild flavor that is more palatable to a broader range of people.  And that mild flavor means it can be blended with other honeys or used in food manufacture without an overpowering taste.  

          The second reason light colored honey is more expensive is because you absolutely know it hasn’t been heated or otherwise fooled around with.  Any honey that has been heated will get darker in color.  Heating honey is a BAD thing as it kills beneficial enzymes that make honey so good for you.  While dark honey may be from some amazingly wonderful floral source, it might also be honey that has been overheated or reheated several times.

          And I can’t stress this point enough, when you buy honey, seek out a local beekeeper to buy from.  The honey is always amazing and you know what you are getting.  Please, please support your local beekeepers and don’t buy those horrid little bears in the grocery store!!!!!!!!!!!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Nathalie Girard wrote Nov 4, 2012
        • Thanks Tulip for adding info!!

          As for heating up honey, it might change the color a bit but its hard to tell. For example even heated lavander honey will stay white.It would be a shame not to taste a dark honey just in case it was reheated.  

          Tulip you are so right, the solution remains very simple:

          YOUR LOCAL BEEKEEPER, who will probably be very happy to explain to you how he makes his honey, as most beekeepers are very passionate about their work!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Denise Richardson wrote Nov 4, 2012
        • heartawesome info thanks for sharing with us!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Tuliplady wrote Nov 4, 2012
        • Yes, every beekeeper I’ve ever know has been very passionate about what they do.  And it also falls to us, the beekeepers, to educate the general public about what we do, how beneficial bees are to the environment and how good honey is for you.   I’m so glad  you’ve been doing these posts about beekeeping Mavikaya! heart

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