VIII: Honey

Honey is something so much more than bee vomit.

VIII: Honey
A jar of honey. Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is octidi, the 8th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le miel, one of the oddest foodstuffs on the planet, but also one of the best.

Honey's taste is influenced by the flowers it's made from. Most commercial honeys are a mishmash of hives and therefore flowers, and even most individual hives gather from a variety of blooms. Manuka honey from Australia is a famous counterexample, made by bees who exclusively pollenate the tea tree. This adds even more antibacterial properties to the tea (as well as an incredible flavor). Honey is so antibacterial that, in a pinch, it's not a bad substance to rub on an open wound – until you can get a proper bandage.

Honey is bee vomit. It's a fun (?) fact that gets tossed around, and it's one kids in particular enjoy reciting, and it's a compelling answer to the mystery of how honey is made, how these tiny insects manage to take pollen and turn it into a perfect dessert that virtually never spoils.

And while it's accurate enough from a mammal's perspective, "vomit" is a word that doesn't do justice to the amazing chemistry lab inside of each bee that's entirely dedicated to cooking honey, or the amazing process that's evolved within the structure of beehives. So what is honey, really?

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