Honeys Eternal Shelf Life
Red Ice Creations
Considering the almost eternal shelf-life of honey, one has to wonder, which would last longer - honey, or a Big Mac? (Note: Unlike honey, you should never attempt to eat a centuries-old burger.)
The Smithsonians Surprising Science delves into jars of natures sweet stuff:
The Science Behind Honeys Eternal Shelf Life
Natasha Geiling | Smithsonian.com
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.
There are a few other examples of foods that keepindefinitelyin their raw state: salt, sugar, dried rice are a few. But theres something about honey; it can remain preserved in a completely edible form, and while you wouldnt want to chow down on raw rice or straight salt, one could ostensibly dip into a thousand year old jar of honey and enjoy it, without preparation, as if it were a day old. Moreover, honeys longevity lends it other propertiesmainly medicinalthat other resilient foods dont have. Which raises the questionwhat exactly makes honey such a special food?
The answer is as complex as honeys flavoryou dont get a food source with no expiration date without a whole slew of factors working in perfect harmony.
The first comes from the chemical make-up of honey itself. Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic, a term that means they contain very little water in their natural state but can readily suck in moisture if left unsealed. As Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California, Davis explains, Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. Theyre smothered by it, essentially. What Harris points out represents an important feature of honeys longevity: for honey to spoil, there needs to be something inside of it that can spoil. With such an inhospitable environment, organisms cant survive long enough within the jar of honey to have the chance to spoil.
Honey is also naturally extremely acidic. It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything that wants to grow there, Harris explains. So bacteria and spoil-ready organisms must look elsewhere for a homethe life expectancy inside of honey is just too low.
But honey isnt the only hygroscopic food source out there. Molasses, for example, which comes from the byproduct of cane sugar, is extremely hygroscopic, and is acidic, though less so than honey (molasses has a pH of around 5.5). And yetalthough it may take a long time, as the sugar cane product has a longer shelf-life than fresh produce, eventually molasses will spoil.
So why does one sugar solution spoil, while another lasts indefinitely? Enter bees.
Bees are magical, Harris jokes. But there is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in wateranywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honeys resilience.
Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
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