Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch

26 Aug 2013

It might be the title of an old pop song but there is something in those words. Go to ... salt, sugar, and dried rice can be kept for long periods of time without deteriorating, and so can honey. Archaeologists in Egypt have come across pots of honey that are still well preserved, and edible, in spite of a shelf life of several thousands of years. Why is this?

Honey is basically a sugar in a runny semi liquid form and contains little water in its natural state - although moisture if left unsealed will spoil the product. In its natural form honey is very low in moisture and few bacteria can survive in such an environment - which is interesting in itself as far as the biological origin of life is concerned. Bees paly a large part in removing much of the moisture by flapping their wings to dry out the nectar. Bees also have a stomach enzyme that breaks down into two by-products, gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The latter may sound like an ingredient of washing powder but in this instance it stops bacteria from growing - and everything else. Honey was used in medicine for centuries because it is thick, weet, easy to apply, and provides a barrier against infection (especially on wounds). It is mentioned on Sumerian clay tablets in a medicinal way.