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Honey: a multi-faceted food

Honey: produced by bees

Honey is the food produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers or plant secretions. Foraging worker bees use their tongues to gather the sweet liquid nectar, rich in saccharose, which they then transform by several stages into a solution of concentrated simple sugars: honey. This is then stored in cells which, once filled, are operculated (closed) with a thin layer of wax. 

Honey harvesting

Honey is harvested several times per year according to the seasons when plants are in bloom. One beehive produces between 10 and 15 kg of honey per harvest. The consistency and colour of honey vary according to the floral origin.

 

Honey, quite a history

The knowledge and use of honey by humans date back to the most ancient times. It is one of humanity's oldest food items and is known for its preventive and curative medicinal properties.

There are wide varieties of honey according to the botanical origin. There are as many varieties of honey as there are melliferous plants (foraging plants for bees).

 

The different honey appellations

To give a honey a monofloral appellation, several criteria must be met: colour, aroma, taste, certain chemical parameters and the flower pollen percentage in the honey.

The number of pollens differs according to the species from which the pollen is gathered and this is related to the shape of the flower.

 

The main varieties of honey

According to origin:

  • Blossom or nectar honey: honey obtained from plant nectars. The plant species from which the bees gather nectar determine the properties of the honey.
  • Honey from honeydew: honey obtained essentially from excretions left on the live parts of plants by sucking insects (hemipteran) or from secretions from the live parts of plants.
  • Floral appellation:
    • Monofloral honey: obtained mainly from one determined plant species (the dominant pollen varies according to the floral origin: >15%)
    • Polyfloral honey: obtained from different plant species.
  • Geographic appellation: honey comes from a specific geographic location, whether this is a region, a province, a country or a continent. Geographic origins play a determining role in the taste, texture and colour of honey. In fact, depending on the place where they gather nectar, bees do not reach the same plants. Therefore, a typical honey profile can be drawn according to the origin of the honey and the predominant plants in the territory where the bees gather nectar.

According to the production and/or presentation method

  • Honeycombs: honey is stored by bees in operculated cells of newly built combs or thin layers of embossed wax made solely of beeswax, containing no brood comb, and sold in whole or broken combs.
  • Honey with pieces of comb: honey which contains one or more pieces of honeycombs;
  • Drained honey: honey obtained by draining uncapped honeycombs that contain no brood comb;
  • Centrifuged honey: honey obtained by centrifugation of uncapped honeycombs that contain no brood comb;
  • Pressed honey: honey obtained by pressing honeycombs that contain no brood comb; with or without moderate heating of a maximum of 45°C.
  • Filtered honey: honey obtained by elimination of organic or inorganic foreign matter in such a way that significant quantities of pollen are eliminated.

 

Things you should know about honey

  • Honey is a completely natural product that is self-sufficient and contains no additive or preservative.
  • The date on the jars is an indication of freshness, but honey can be preserved for several years while maintaining its original aroma and gustatory characteristics.
  • Honey can be kept almost indefinitely. Due to its high sugar concentration, it is reputed to eliminate most bacteria by osmosis. Archaeologists have found edible honey in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs...
  • 1/8 coffee spoon is the quantity of honey made by one bee in its lifetime.

 

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Culture Miel.

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