Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Buzz About Honey

 Barter, Food Storage, Morale Boosters, Nutrition

Honey has long been a valued foodstuff.  Unlike sugar cane and other sources of sweetness, the work is just about all done for you.  You don’t have to plant, weed, or harvest anything.  You let the bees do what God programmed them to do and you get a share.  Being the good little preppers that they are, they store about 3 times more honey than they need to survive the winter.

A Little History
Honey has been eaten by humans for about as long as anyone can remember.  There are hieroglyphic records that reference it all the way back to at least 2400 B.C.  It is mentioned in the Bible many times and was often the gift of choice.  It was even buried with the pharaohs in their pyramids so they could even have it in their afterlife.
Honey was so valued that Roman citizens could use honey to pay their taxes.  This practice was continued in various places up through the 11th century when German peasants could pay in honey or beeswax, which was important in candle-making.  Napoleon esteemed bees so much that he had them embroidered onto his flag and clothing.

What exactly is Honey?
Honeybees visit hundreds of flowers a day to gather nectar and pollen.  They store the liquid nectar in a special stomach where it mixes with enzymes and proteins produced by the bee.  When they are loaded down, they return to the hive and deposit their haul into cells of honeycomb.  The honey is then fanned by the bees’ wings to evaporate much of the water and thicken the product.  The result is honey.

Chemically, honey is composed of sugars (a balance of fructose and glucose), but it is also fortified with minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sulphur, iron, and phosphate.  It usually also contained B vitamins, but the exact composition, like the color of the honey, will depend on what kind of flowers the bees visited to gather the nectar.  Typically, the darker the honey, the more nutritious and healthful it is.

What is available in stores under brand names is usually pasteurized honey.  It has been filtered and heat-treated.  While this process produces a very uniform and sterile product, it may also remove or inactivate some of the great properties of honey.  Raw honey sometimes even contains beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

The Uses of Honey
We are all pretty familiar with its most common use- as a sweetener- but there is a lot more to honey than that.
It may surprise you to know that honey has medicinal qualities.  It acts as an anti-microbial agent and it often applied to wounds like burns.  I have read it is used in Iraq to treat injured children in the warzones.  It is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect also, so it eases swelling and allows tissues to repair themselves.  Scientists are looking into its effectiveness against MRSA. E. coli, and Candida (fungus).

In Europe honey is used to treat stomach ulcers.  It is an oft-prescribed remedy for sore throats too, especially if added to hot tea.  Many people use it to help get rid of respiratory infections also.

If you are a seasonal allergy sufferer, local raw honey may be just the solution for you.  Because some of the pollen from local flowers will be present in the honey that is ingested, many people report that their sensitivities and histamine responses to pollen in the air is greatly reduced.

Honey is a good source of anti-oxidants and so may help in preventing heart disease and cancer.

Why Should Preppers Consider Stocking Honey or Keeping Bees?
Honey stays stable for a very long time.  It was found in Egyptian tombs when archaeologists opened them up and it was still safely edible.  It may crystallize if it becomes too cold, but warming it will turn it back into its familiar state.
Honey can be used in place of most other sweeteners (like sugar) with some minor recipe modifications.  Sugar cane can only be grown in a few places, but with some protection, bees could be kept in most places.
Keeping honeybees would be a great way to make sure your garden and orchard get pollinated also.  You don’t get fruit without pollination and many bee populations have been great reduced.

One last consideration- sweets are a treat almost everyone looks forward to.  They will be a great morale booster as well as a super barter item!
Preparing to survive the end of the world as we know it

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