Used for thousands of years as a sweetener, medicine, beauty treatment and even a mode of taxation in ancient civilisations, honey is nature’s great multitasker. And it’s all thanks to the hard work of bees that are really as busy as the idiom goes.
Once a honeybee returns to the hive with its nectar harvest, it regurgitates it into another bee’s mouth and the process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is deposited into the honeycomb. The bees then fan it with their wings until most of the water is evaporated, creating the syrupy thickness we’re familiar with. A special enzyme in the bees’ stomachs breaks the nectar down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, and it’s this combination of acidity, low moisture and hydrogen peroxide that gives honey the antibacterial properties that help cure everything from coughs to cuts. But only the raw stuff will do. And, thanks to declining bee populations and rising demand for natural sweeteners contributing to a steady increase in honey prices, the real deal has never been more precious.
Most commercial honey has been pasteurised, which involves applying high heat to destroy yeast so as to extend its shelf life and create a clearer appearance and smoother consistency. Unfortunately, research suggests that pasteurisation also kills off a lot of honey’s natural nutrients. Not to mention the lack of distinct flavour and aroma profi les that come from processing regula