Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why Honey is Kosher

We get asked many times, "Is honey kosher?  I mean, it's from a BEE and the bee is not kosher!"

It's a good question, but not to worry for honey is completely kosher, not violating any of the dietary restrictions found in scripture!

Honey bees convert nectar from flowers into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation.  Regurgitation may not sound kosher, but it is okay here.  Bees store the honey as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside their beehive.  Humans extract the honey from the beehive and bottle it.

So let's look at the process in a bit more detail and see how the honey comes about.

Foraging bees land on flowers and use their long, tube-like tongues to suck nectar from the flowers. They swallow the nectar but store it in a "honey crop", a special type of stomach which comes before the actual digestive system stomach of the bee. The nectar never enters the bee's digestive system! The honey crop is more of "pouch" used to port nectar back to the hive and transfer it to worker bees. 

The worker bees "chew" the nectar for a period (about 30 minutes or so) during which time enzymes break complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars.  This final form of nectar is then spread throughout the honeycomb which allows remaining water in the mass to evaporate. As the water evaporates, the nectar thickens and becomes honey.  Honey is more digestible to the bees than the nectar, and it is also protected from any bacteria.  At some point, the worker bees "assess" the thickness of the honey, and they seal off the end of the honeycomb with a cap of wax.  This keeps the honey in permanent storage until it is eaten by the bees - or as in our case - a beekeeper harvests the honey for us humans!

Honey consists of mostly fructose, glucose, and the water which did not evaporate. It also contains other sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.  But most importantly, it is only converted nectar, not a product of the bee itself, and completely kosher consisting of nothing forbidden by our Creator!  

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