With so much of our life in turmoil this year, taking solace in the little things and participating in soothing rituals has become essential to ensuring one’s peace of mind. Given all this uncertainty, isn’t it comforting to know that some things will always remain the same? One of those immutable items is honey. Honey has been called the only food that truly lasts forever, thanks to synergy between its miraculous chemistry and the artisanal attention of bees.
You can rely 100% on the fact that your honey will be, well…always honey. That’s right, honey never spoils, goes bad or expires. If you had a jar of honey for drizzling on your cornflakes when you were five, you could still be using that same honey for sweetening your tea when turn 100 years old. Except, that’s impossible for you surely would have eaten up its sweet goodness way before then.
Proof of honey’s longevity is evident in the excavation of ancient Egyptian tombs. Archeologists have unearthed perfectly preserved pots of honey that are thousands of years old. Astonishing!
Why is it that some foods—like honey—are able to last so long? Most foods end up spoiling due to bacterial growth, which is encouraged by a food’s inherent moisture content and its storage conditions. Salty foods as well as those containing acid are more likely to resist spoilage. The same goes for products that are alcohol-based. All three of these properties minimize or eliminate bacterial growth.
Not only does honey has very little moisture in it, but it also is quite acidic (pH of 3 to 4.5). These two characteristics serve to create an inhospitable environment for bacteria or other microorganisms. Furthermore, bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF) that essentially imbues honey with super powers to kill any bad bugs that could possibly grow in it.
To ensure that your honey remains in pristine condition, it is important to seal it against moisture. The only changes you might observe in your honey over time are a darkening in color or some crystallization, but it is still safe to eat. Actually crystallization is a sign of high quality honey and some people enjoy the subtle crunch and texture of crystallized honey. However, if you prefer your honey as a liquid, just gently warm up the container by placing it in hot water (not boiling) and stirring until the crystals re-dissolve. Alternatively, a beverage hot plate works just as well.
Want to learn what other food products last forever? Check out this fascinating article in the Huffington Post.