Honey’s long his­tory con­tin­ues

Lebanon Traveler - - GASTRONOMY -

Honey, one of na­ture’s nat­u­ral del­i­ca­cies, has been a part of our diet for cen­turies. The Food Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Zeinab Jeam­bey traces its early uses and ex­plores the va­ri­eties that can be found in Le­banon to­day

Men­tioned in re­li­gious texts as a ce­les­tial food and praised for its health and medic­i­nal prop­er­ties, honey col­lec­tion from nat­u­ral bee­hives can be traced back to the late Stone Age. In the an­cient Mid­dle Eastern re­gion, honey was used as a sweet­ener for food and wine. In the Sume­rian and Egyptian civ­i­liza­tions it was a main in­gre­di­ent in med­i­cal pre­scrip­tions to treat ail­ments such as eye and skin dis­eases, coughs, ul­cers and stom­ach dis­eases. Egyp­tians also used it as a preser­va­tive agent in the process of mum­mi­fy­ing the dead (“Honey and heal­ing through the ages,” Richard Jones, In­ter­na­tional Bee Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion.)

Honey: pro­duc­tion and char­ac­ter­is­tics

Honey is pro­duced by hon­ey­bees mainly from the nec­tar of flow­ers and hon­ey­dew, a prod­uct of sap-suck­ing in­sects left on the plant for bees to col­lect, like the hon­ey­dew found on oak, cedar and ju­niper trees in Le­banon. Hon­ey­bees ex­tract th­ese sug­ary sub­stances and bring them back to the bee­hive where they process them by adding en­zymes and ex­tract­ing wa­ter in or­der to slowly trans­form the nec­tar, sap and hon­ey­dew into honey. Honey is then stored in wax cells, and sealed as stor­age food for the bees in times of nec­tar short­age. It comes in dif­fer­ent colors, depend­ing on the source of nec­tar or hon­ey­dew the bees col­lect. Honey is con­sid­ered a nu­tri­tious food, mainly con­sti­tuted of sug­ars such as glu­cose, fruc­tose and su­crose, wa­ter and small amounts of amino acids, min­er­als, aro­mas and en­zymes. Though only found in traces, the en­zymes bees add to honey are of im­por­tant nu­tri­tional value be­cause they pro­duce the an­tibac­te­rial agent, , hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide (H2O2),2), that in­hibits the growth of cer­tain­er­tain food-born bac­te­ria such as E. coli. Th­e­seese en­zymes are heat sen­si­tive. A tem­per­a­tureer­a­ture of 40 de­grees and above de­stroyss them, thus caus­ing the loss of their healthalth benefits.

Many con­sumers, andd un­for­tu­nately, un­knowl­edge­able bee­keep­ers,ekeep­ers, be­lieve and ve­he­mently ar­gue that honey crys­tal­liza­tion is a sign of honey adul­ter­ation with sugar and corn syrup. This mis­be­lief has be­come wide­spread in our so­ci­ety. In fact, honey adul­ter­ation can only be de­tected by lab­o­ra­tory tests. Honey crys­tal­liza­tion on the other hand, is a nat­u­ral process that oc­curs due to many fac­tors such as the nec­tar source, the ra­tio of dif­fer­ent sug­ars found in honey and the pres­ence of sed­i­ments that might stay in honey af­ter honey ex­trac­tion which helps ini­ti­ate the process.

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