In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat crystallized honey?”, and why can honey last a very long time?
Can you eat crystallized honey?
Yes, you can safely eat crystallized honey. Some people like the grainy and more spreadable texture of the crystallized honey.
Raw honey is more susceptible to crystallization due to the presence of honeycomb, beeswax, pollen, or propolis bits that accelerate the crystallization process.
The best way to de-crystallize honey is to heat it in a water bath at 110℃. Microwaving is a quick method but it is not recommended as it deteriorates the quality of honey.
Why can honey last a very long time?
High sugar, low moisture
Honey is composed of 80% sugar. Such high sugar levels contribute to a greater osmotic pressure which compels the water to rupture out of microbial cells which stops microbial growth.
The 17-18% water in honey is bound by sugar and is not available to microbes for their metabolic reactions such as fermentation.
Additionally, the dense consistency of honey prevents oxygen from entering. No oxygen means no growth of aerobic bacteria and fungi.
It is acidic
The average ph of the honey is 3.9. It is due to the presence of gluconic acid, a by-product of nectar ripening.
The growth of certain bacteria like C. diphtheriae, E.coli, Streptococcus, and Salmonella, is inhibited by acidic ph. The anti-bacterial properties of honey are employed to use it for burns and wounds.
Contains special enzymes
For the preservation of honey, bees release an enzyme called glucose oxidase. This enzyme ripens honey by converting sugar into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has excellent antimicrobial properties.
Besides, compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids, methylglyoxal, bee peptides, and other antibacterial agent inhibit microbial growth.
When can honey go bad?
It may be contaminated
Mold, yeast, and bacteria are naturally present in honey in lower amounts. The presence of C. botulinum spores is very rare in honey, that is; only in 5–15% of honey samples. These spores are present within the safe limit and are not injurious to adults.
However, they can lead to infant botulism in children younger than 1 year. The sources of contamination of honey could are Primary; peels, bees’ digestive tract, dust, air, dirt, and flowers, etc, or Secondary; humans, equipment, container, animals, water, insects, etc.
It can contain toxic compounds
Bees collect nectar from particular flowers and store it in the honeycomb. During this, some toxins like grayanotoxins can be transferred from plants like Rhododendron ponticum and Azalea pontica.
Moreover, the processing and aging of honey yield a toxic substance called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). The safe limit for this toxic substance is 40mg per kg of honey.
It may be adulterated
Honey is often adulterated with cheap sweeteners to increase volume and earn profit. Cheap sweeteners can either be directly added to honey or fed to bees, resulting in a low-quality product.
Sometimes the honey is harvested before it is fully ripe. Unripe honey has a higher water content which makes it more susceptible to microbial attack.
It may be stored incorrectly
Improperly stored honey absorbs moisture. Due to which its water content rises above the safe level of 18%. Honey stored in open containers can easily be contaminated by environmental microbes.
Moreover, high-temperature treatment of honey degrades its color, flavor, and increases the HMF content.
It can crystallize and degrade over time
Crystallized honey has a gritty texture and an opaque appearance but it is not spoiled. Hoover, crystallization releases water which puts the honey at a higher risk of contamination. Prolonged storage makes the honey lose most of its quality attributes.
How to store and safely handle honey?
Moisture is the worst enemy of the quality of honey. To keep the moisture away from honey, you must store honey in air-tight containers. These containers should preferably be made of glass or stainless steel.
Honey should be stored in a cool (10–20°C), dry and dark place away from direct sources of heat like direct sunlight or the stovetop. Refrigeration tends to accelerate the crystallization process and makes the honey denser.
Crystallized honey can be revived by gentle heating in a water bath or on direct flame with constant stirring. Do not dip used or dirty spoons or forks inside the honey jar to prevent contamination.
Always trust your senses. If something is off about the appearance, texture, taste, or color of honey, it is best to get rid of it.
In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat crystallized honey?”, and why can honey last a very long time?