Our inborn taste for sweet foods
led Stone Age humans to forage for the sweetness of honey. Although bees
were first domesticated in artificial hives in Egypt and India about 4,500
years ago, it wasn't until about A.D 1000 that beekeepers began to
understand the interplay between bees and flowers that is required to
Honey remained the staple
sweetener in Europe until the 1500s, when granulated sugar (more easily
stored and transported) became available. But sugar could not entirely
replace honey's more complex flavors, and honey remains a popular food.
Bees native to the Americas live
only in tropical zones and lack stingers. They scavenge not only in flowers
but also in fruits and animal droppings to make honeys that taste strange
and are often unsafe. A single Old World species, Apis mellifera, was
brought to North America by colonists in the 1600s and now produces
virtually all of our honey.
FROM FLOWERS TO HIVES
Plants and honey bees have a
symbiotic relationship. as the bees gather nectar, they carry pollen with
them from one flower to another, thus ensuring cross-fertilization. The bees
concentrate the flower nectar into honey, which is stored in their hives.
Honeybees also collect and store pollen, which provides developing and young
worker bees with protein and vitamins similar to the nutrients in dried
beans and peas. While it is food for bees, pollen does nothing for humans
that legumes can't do better, and it may trigger life-threatening allergic
reactions in susceptible people.
As sac where enzymes begin a
refining and filtering process. When the bee returns to its hive, a chain of
workers greets it; each one pumps the nectar in and out of the honey sac
until it becomes honey concentrated enough to resist bacteria and molds. It
is then stored in a comb to ripen until it is needed for food.
Leguminous plants, especially
clover, are commonly cultivated for bee foraging. Other crops favored for
the tang of the honey they produce include linden, sage, and thyme.
The liquid honey that is mot
popular in North America is removed from the comb by centrifugation, it is
then pasteurized, strained, filtered, and bottled. Solid honeys are put
through controlled crystallization before packaging.
HONEY AS FOOD
Despite all the claims that honey
is a wonder food, its nutritional value is very limited; honeys are mostly
sugars – fructose and glucose, with some sucrose. Some types provide minute
amounts of B complex and C vitamins. Honey does contain some antioxidants,
however, mostly polyphenols, but fruits and vegetables are much better
sources. Some new studies are looking into the antimicrobial and
would-healing properties of honey.
Volume for volume, honey is
higher in calories than sugar; a tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories,
compared to 46 in a tablespoon of sugar. This is partly because a tablespoon
of honey weighs more than the same volume of sugar. Honey can be substituted
for sugar at the ratio of 1 measure of honey for every 1¼ to be decreased,
however, to compensate for the water that is present in honey. Breads and
cakes that are sweetened with honey do stay moister than those that are
baked with sugar, thanks to the water-attracting (hygroscopic) properties of