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Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by bees and other insects from the nectar of flowers. "The definition of honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance. This includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners," according the United States National Honey Board 2003 and other nations' food regulations.
Honey is significantly sweeter than table sugar and has attractive chemical properties for baking. Honey has a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners.
Liquid honey does not spoil. Because of its high sugar concentration, it kills bacteria by plasmolysis. Natural airborne yeasts cannot become active in it because the moisture content is too low. Natural, raw honey varies from 14% to 18% moisture content. As long as the moisture content remains under 18%, virtually no organism can successfully multiply to significant amounts in honey.
The study of pollens and spores in raw honey (melissopalynology) can determine floral sources of honey. Because bees carry an electrostatic charge, and can attract other particles, the same techniques of melissopalynology can be used in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust, or particulate pollution.
The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, spreading on bread or toast, and as an addition to various beverages such as tea. Because honey is hygroscopic (drawing moisture from the air), a small quantity of honey added to a pastry recipe will retard the staling process. Raw honey also contains enzymes that help in its digestion, several vitamins and antioxidants.
Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverages, mead, which is also known as honey wine, and methelgin.
Honey is used in traditional folk medicine and is an excellent natural preservative.
Most vegans consider honey to be an animal product and avoid using it, instead choosing sweetening alternatives such as golden syrup.
Without commercial beekeeping, large-scale fruit and vegetable farming and some of the seed industry would be incapable of sustaining themselves, since many crops are pollinated by migratory beekeepers who contract their bees for that purpose.
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