Honey a wonderful rich golden liquid, miraculous product extracted from the honey bees which is natural and delicious alternate to white sugar. Honey is available throughout the year and an exceptional treat in summers and fall when it has just been harvested.
The process of making honey is fascinating and begins when the bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar is then mixed with special enzymes in the bees’ saliva, an alchemical process that turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive where they deposit it into the cells of the hive’s walls. The fluttering of their wings provides the necessary ventilation to reduce the moisture’s content making it ready for consumption.
Honey is a delicious viscous sweetener made naturally by bees for their own nourishment. Honey comes in a range of colors including white, amber, red, brown and almost black. Its flavor and texture vary with the type of flower nectar from which it was made. While the most commonly available honeys are made from clover, alfalfa, heather and acacia flowers, honey can be made from a variety of different flowers, including thyme and lavender.
Since ancient times, honey has been used both as a food and medicine. Apiculture, the practice of beekeeping to produce honey, dates back to at least 700 BC. For many centuries, honey was regarded as sacred due to its wonderfully sweet properties as well as its rarity. It was used mainly in religious ceremonies to pay tribute to the gods, as well as to embalm the deceased. Honey was also used for a variety of medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is said that for a long time in history, use of honey in cooking was done only by the wealthy since it was so expensive that only they could afford it.
The prestige of honey continued for millennia until one fateful event in culinary and world history – the “discovery” of refined sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Once these became more widely available, they were in great demand since they provided a relatively inexpensive form of sweetening. With their growing popularity, honey became displaced by sugar for culinary use. Since then, although honey is still used for sweetening, much of its use has become focused on its medicinal properties and its use in confectionary.
The honey bees make honey from plant nectar and they evaporate much of the moisture and add enzymes that change the composition of the nectar to give honey its unique taste. Bees blend honey naturally by combining the pollens from many different flowers in areas where no one flower predominates. Honeys also are blended during packing to create a specific taste. There are four categories of Honey namely: Comb Honey (honeycomb) is direct from the hive honey filled beeswax comb as stored naturally by the bees. Liquid Honey (extracted) is prepared by cutting off the wax cappings and whirling the comb in a honey extractor, where centrifugal force moves the honey out of the cells. Creamed Honey (granulated) made by blending one part finely granulated honey with nine parts liquid honey. The mixture is stored at about 57 degrees until it becomes firm. Chunk Honey, Comb honey in a jar with liquid honey poured around it.
Honey has a long history of human consumption and is used in various foods and beverages as a sweetener and flavoring. It also has a role in religion and symbolism. Flavors of honey vary based on the nectar source, and various types and grades of honey are available. It is also used in various medicinal traditions to treat ailments. Honey is created by bees as a food source. Fresh honey is a super-saturated liquid, containing more sugar than the water can typically dissolve at ambient temperatures. At room temperature, honey is a super cooled liquid, in which the glucose will precipitate in order to crystalize into solid granules. This forms a semi-solid solution of solidified sugars mixed with liquid sugars and other ingredients.
Honey use and production has a long and varied history. In many cultures, honey has associations that go beyond its use as a food. Honey is frequently used as a talisman and symbol of sweetness. Honey collection is an ancient activity. Honey was also cultivated in ancient Mesoamerica. The Maya used honey from the stingless bee for culinary purposes and continue to do so today. Some cultures believed honey had many practical health uses. It was used as an ointment for rashes and burns, and used to help soothe sore throats when no other medicinal practices were available.
According to Hinduism honey or also known as Madhu is considered to be very auspicious and is one of the five elixirs of immortality (Panchamrita). In temples, honey is poured over the deities in a ritual called Madhu abhisheka. As per the ancient Vedas and other literatures honey is said to have great medicinal values and is a healthy food. In Jewish tradition, honey is a symbol for the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. For the traditional meal on that day, apple slices are dipped in honey and eaten to bring a sweet new year.
Honey is used in many culinary purposes like in baking (cakes), spread on the bread or used in tea as sweetener etc. Honey barbecue and honey mustard are common and popular sauce flavors. Honey is also used in glazing the desserts and cooking of meat and fish dishes. Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also known as “honey wine” or “honey beer”. Historically, the ferment for mead was honey’s naturally occurring yeast. Honey is also used as an adjunct in some beers.
Honey is a mixture of sugars and other compounds. Apart from carbohydrates, honey is mainly fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about 31.0%), making it similar to the synthetically produced inverted sugar syrup, which is approximately 48% fructose, 47% glucose, and 5% sucrose. Honey’s remaining carbohydrates include maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Honey is mainly with all nutritive sweeteners and contains only trace amounts of vitamins or minerals. Honey also contains tiny amounts of several compounds thought to function as antioxidants, including chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C. The specific composition of any batch of honey depends on the flowers available to the bees that produced the honey.
The nutritional values per 100 g of Honey are:
Energy: 1272 kJ (304 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 82.4 g
Sugars: 82.12 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Fat: 0 g
Protein: 0.3 g
Water: 17.10 g
Vitamin C: 0.5 mg
Calcium: 6 mg
Iron: 0.42 mg
Magnesium: 2 mg
Phosphorus: 4 mg
Potassium: 52 mg
Sodium: 4 mg
Zinc: 0.22 mg