How Long Does Honey Last?

Honey doesn’t spoil. Ever. I know that seems like an impossible statement to make, but it’s true!

Think of one thing you have in your fridge or pantry. What is the shelf life of that food? Pretty limited, right?

Tombs in ancient Egypt that had been sealed up for thousands of years were found to have jars of very old but perfectly edible honey buried with the long-departed pharoahs. It was precisely because Egyptians knew that honey doesn’t spoil that they buried it with those pharaohs in the first place. After all, the king needed something to eat in the afterlife!

Most foods have one ingredient that always makes the whole thing rot. That ingredient is called “bacteria”. But why does honey last forever when other foods do not?

It just so “happens” that everything in natural, raw honey is in perfect balance. It has very little moisture content. Microorganisms thrive in watery environments. Take away the majority of the water and they can’t survive.

But low water content isn’t enough. The next thing that makes honey last forever is that it has a low pH value. That’s a scientific way of saying it has a lot of acid in it. Too much acid is something bacteria like to avoid, so that’s another reason honey has a high shelf life.

We can’t forget the role of the most important ingredient. Bees! No, bees aren’t in it, but they do process the watery flower nectar, removing the majority of moisture. Also, they introduce something that is poisonous to bacteria: hydrogen peroxide. That name may sound familiar from your first aid kit. Yes, it’s the liquid you can use to disinfect a wound.

Did you guess the next thing I was going to say? Yes! You’re correct. Because honey is so toxic to microbes, it can be used to keep wounds clean. We’ll get into that in a future post.

If you’d like, I can ship you a jar of all natural, raw, unfiltered Orange Blossom honey to experiment on to see if it will ever spoil. Although, unless you plan to live for thousands of years–or forever–I don’t recommend that. The Egyptian pharaohs and I are 100% confident it won’t spoil. It’s much more fun to eat it instead.

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