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Bee Smart: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Honey

In honor of Earth Day this week, we'll be doing the Bee Sweet Bake Sale at work to benefit honey bee research.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to review some fascinating facts about our favorite bee-stuff: honey. Bet there's at least a couple you didn't know. (Unless you're a beekeeper, in which case I really hope you do know all ten.)

Bee Smart

1. There are four honey grades (Grade A = Good; Grade B = Reasonably Good; Grade C = Fairly Good; Substandard = Poor), and although the USDA sets up the standards, the way a beekeeper grades honey is completely subjective. So it may pay to give your honey an eyeball and grade it yourself before you buy.

Better yet, seek out and support your local beekeepers.

2. Untreated honey seems to have powers of preservation and protects against some kinds of foodborne pathogens.

3. Honey is an acid (with a between 3.2 and 4.5), which also helps prevent bacteria... yet another reason why you can keep it at room temperature in your cupboard.

4. Honey absorbs moisture and odors. So keep it sealed tightly and don't store it near smelly things.

5. Honey can be used in place of sugar in some recipes, but it's important to be careful with the quantities. According the the very useful guide on cooking with honey at the University of Minnesota, "if a recipe calls for 1/2-cup sugar or less, omit the sugar and use the same amount of honey instead." But be careful with larger substitutions. Honey brings both liquid and flavor to the recipe.

6. Research indicates that honey can be used to effectively treat minor to moderate burns, helping to bring healing up to four days earlier. That's good to know as sunburn season approaches...

7. Honey was used in ancient times to brew mead, a treat enjoyed across the ancient world from China through Scandinavia.

Here's an entertaining quote from The Theft of Thor's Hammer in World Mythology in which Viking god Thor, dressed in drag to pass as the goddess Freya, demonstrates an appetite worthy of an immortal:
"Evening arrived, and with it Thrym's beloved. The giants set a feast of food and ale before the bride. She quickly consumed all the sweet dainties that had been reserved for the women, plus a whole ox and eight large salmon. She drank more than three horns of mead."

8. Most of the world's honey is produced in... surprise! China.

9. Honey makes sweet guest appearances in the texts of the world's major religions. It's memorably mentioned in the Christian book of Exodus to describe the Promised Land as a place "flowing with milk and honey." It's key for Jewish celebrations at Rosh Hashanah, for Buddhists in the festival of Madhu Purnima and for followers of Islam, there is both mention of honey and also a chapter in the Qur'an called al-Nahl (the Bee).

10. Used in cosmetics since the time of Cleopatra (she was reported to bathe in honey and milk), honey continues to be a popular ingredient in skin and hair treatments.

The National Honey Board suggests you make like Cleo and add 1/4 cup honey to your bath water "for a fragrant, silky bath." Find more NHB beauty recipes at their Beauty Fact Sheet PDF.

Sweetly Yours,
Miss Ginsu

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4.20.2009

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