Beekeeping is a simple and rewarding project for the would-be homesteader. A hive doesn’t take up a lot of space and requires very little maintenance. And, considering that your average hive produces around 33 pounds of honey per year, you will have plenty of honey for your family and friends.
If you have the space for a few hives, you will have a steady stream of the liquid gold. But what if you cannot use all of it up? How long does honey last? Does honey expire? Can honey go bad? What about raw honey vs honey (you know the traditional honey you see in stores?)
These are all valid questions if you want to start beekeeping.
Here is some really good news for you – pure honey does not have an expiration date. As long as you don’t introduce food particles into it or add in a lot of moisture, it won’t go bad.
Honey has been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, thousands of years after it was laid down, still perfectly edible.
According to the Smithsonian, it is the makeup of honey that makes it so resilient to spoiling.
Honey is primarily made up of sugar and had very little water in it. The highly acidic nature of honey also makes it more difficult for bacteria and organisms to thrive.
To further understand why honey doesn’t spoil, we also need to consider how it is made. The bees have glucose oxidase in their stomachs. The nectar is exposed to the enzyme when the bees regurgitate it.
The enzyme causes the nectar to break down into Hydrogen Peroxide and Gluconic Acid. The Hydrogen Peroxide is the third effective barrier against bacteria and microorganisms.
The combination of the low moisture level, the high acidity and the Hydrogen Peroxide present in it make it a food that won’t readily spoil.
Does honey last forever, then? Depending on how well it is stored, and how it is used, it may seem that way but things can go wrong.
How to Tell if Honey is Bad, Rotten or Spoiled?
The best way to tell if honey has spoiled is by smelling and tasting it. If it smells bad or tastes sour, it is a sign that yeast has gotten in there.
Another sign is when there is a growth on or inside the honey. This will cause the honey to look cloudy in places and will also affect the taste and smell.
This is different from crystallization, where the honey goes solid because the taste and smell are affected. Honey is bound to crystallize over time naturally. This leads to the honey becoming opaque and solid – it will look more like a sugar paste than a liquid.
To get it back to normal is usually just a matter of heating it a little.
How To Store Honey To Extend Its Shelf Life?
Moisture in the honey is the thing that can cause it to spoil quickly. Honey that is left exposed to the air will draw in moisture from the air and so be more prone to spoiling. To keep honey good for longer, seal it well after each use. Storing in proper containers should be priority #1 after learning how to harvest honey in the first place.
You can store the honey in glass or plastic containers but not metal ones. Keep it in a cool, dark cupboard, preferably one where the temperature is fairly constant and don’t ever store it in the refrigerator.
How Long Is Honey Good For When Prepared In A Dish?
When using honey in cooking, go by the expiry date for the dish that you are actually preparing. So, if for example, you made honey-basted pork chops, you would need to eat them within two or three days or they would spoil.
A honey and mustard dressing, made with honey, olive oil and mustard, on the other hand, has a little bit of a longer life span because of the ingredients it contains.
It is always a wise idea to err on the side of caution here, though. Make only as much as you need for the meal that you are making or, if you are doubling up, freeze the extra portions as soon as possible.
Interesting Facts About Honey
- A lot of work goes into producing one teaspoon of honey. It will take a dozen bees their whole life to do this.
- According to the Ancient Greeks, Zeus himself was fed on honey when he was growing up. It was also believed that honey was a favorite of the Gods when it came to desserts. It is part of the reason that honey is still used in many traditional Greek sweets and desserts.
- Tutankhamun seems to have had quite the sweet tooth – there was a lot of honey entombed with him.
- Honey is a traditional remedy used to help cuts and gashes heal. The honey draws the moisture out of the wound and the Hydrogen Peroxide in the honey helps to kill off bacteria. The combination of the two helps the wound to heal faster. It has proven so effective that it is a technique that is now also being used in some hospitals in place of antibacterial preparations.
- The body can digest honey very easily.
- Honey contains many trace minerals and other elements that make it a highly nutritious food. You do need to remember, however, that it is basically pure sugar, so you do need to watch your intake of it.
- Raw honey is a lot healthier for you because it has not been heated and still contains traces of pollen. Heat destroys some of the health-giving enzymes in the honey. In commercial preparations, the pollen is strained out. This can alter the taste and nutritional benefit of the honey.
- Honey is often included in skin treatments because of its hygroscopic properties. It helps to draw water from the atmosphere and so helps to keep the skin moisturized.
Honey is considered one of nature’s superfoods with good reason.
It tastes delicious, is highly nutritious and has strong anti-bacterial properties. It is good on your table, good as a first-aid remedy and can help your skin feel soft and smooth.
What more could you ask for?
By the way, if you’re not so much “natural” dwelling like some of our readers, all hope is not lost! For our city-dwelling friends, make sure you check out our urban backyard beekeeping guide so you can see if you can start your mini-apiary even with your skyscraper backdrop.