Honeyis a natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from the nectar of blossomsor from secretions of living parts of plants.
Honeybees collect this material,transform and combine it with specific substances of their own, store and leavein the honey comb to ripen and mature (White & Landis, 1980). Freshly extractedhoney is a viscous liquid with strong hygroscopic character, relatively lowheat conductivity, low surface tension and various colours that are basicallyall nuances of yellow amber (Jusbin, 1996). Their shades range from nearlycolorless to dark brown, while flavors go from subtle to bold; even the aromaof honey may be reminiscent of the flower.
Indiaproduces a total of 95,000 tonnes of honey every year (National HorticultureBoard, 2017). Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are themajor honey producing states. Punjab’s contribution to honey production is10,000 tonnes, a major chunk of which is exported to other countries includingUSA, UK, Europe and West Asia. The composition of honey produced in the worldis variable.
Although the major constituents of honey are nearly the same inall honey samples, the precise chemical composition and physical properties ofnatural honeys differ accoring to various factors like the plant species onwhich the bees forage, geographical, seasonal, floral source, plant origin,harvest prior to complete maturation and storage conditions (Serrano et al 2004, Nanda et al 2003, James et al2009, Cantarelli et al 2008, Ciappiniet al 2008, Omafuvbe et al 2009, Ebenezer et al 2010).Thevarious chemical components of honey include: carbohydrates that comprise themajor portion of honey-about 82% (Hak-Gil et al., 1988), and proteinsthat include a number of enzymes, and eighteen free amino acids, principallyproline (White et al.
, 1962). In addition, honey contains a wide arrayof vitamins, such as vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenicacid, essential minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese,phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc as well as several different amino acid.Honey also contains several compounds which function as antioxidants —compounds that may help delay the oxidative damage to cells or tissues in ourbodies. Known antioxidant compounds in honey are chrysin, pinobanksin, vitaminC, catalase and pinocembrin. Flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act asantioxidants, are found in honey. Honey also contains volatilesubstances which are responsible for the characteristic flavour.
The highcontent of sugars, small amounts of amino acids, lipids, along with somevitamins and minerals impart it high nutritional value.Honey hasbeen claimed (Abdulla & Abdulaziz, 1998) to have therapeutic properties inthe treatment of digestive, respiratory, cardiac and rheumatic disorders.Several studies have reported honey’s immunological, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory,antipyretic properties besides its importance in terms of energy intake.Furthermore, honey has been proved to possess wound healing and analgesicactions (Jusbin, 1996; Abdulla & Abdulaziz, 1998; Pereira et al.,1998). Its use as a sweetener is wellknown in different parts of the world. The application potential in bakery,confectionery, snack foods, fruit and vegetable products and beverages is everincreasing.
In addition to being an amazingnatural sweetener, honey has benefits that have gone largely unknown. It’s awholesome sore-throat soother, a natural energy booster and more. Rawhoney collected from combs is not suitable for large scale marketing withoutfurther treatment. So the honey is processed mainly to destroy yeast cells,reduce the moisture content, delay granulation and remove extraneous matterlike pollen, beeswax, dirt, air bubbles and other solid particles. ISI/ Agmarkspecifications are followed and proper processing is done to obtain betterproduct quality and shelf life. In the state of Punjab, a number of privatebeekeeepers, various federations, societies are engaged in procuring,processing and marketing of honey.
A major problem faced by the beekeepers isthe wastage of honey during processing. Two important stages of processing arefiltration and heating. Honey extracted from combs at apiaries containsextraneous matter such as pollen, bits of wax, variable amount of sugartolerant yeasts and other undesirable material that is removed throughstraining or pressure filtration. Around 0.5- 1 % of honey is extracted alongwith the impurities and gets wasted.
Thequality of stored honey is also influenced by temperature and moistureconditions. Honey has hygroscopic nature, it naturally absorbs moisture fromair during rainy season and gets diluted to a point where it is prone tofermentation, leading to change in the flavour and colour of honey. Also , exposure to high storage temperatureresults in the inactivation of enzymes, caramelisation, degradation of diastaseenzyme and formation of toxic compounds such as Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF).
This gives the honey adark colour, an unpleasant flavor and aroma. About 1.5% of honey is spoiledduring storage due to exposure to high temperature and moisture. This small fraction accounts for a largequantity of honey wasted on large scale (around 150 tonnes), which needs to beutilized to increase the profit of the honey producers.
R From the fermentation of honey, alcoholicbeverages can be obtained. Honey can be fermented to produce different types ofmead (honey wine), sherry type wine, sparkling wine and fruit-honey wine, whichmay have different flavours depending the floral source of the honey and theadditives and yeast used in fermentation. R On anaverage mead is an alcoholic beverage containing 8–18% (v/v) ethanol to which fruits,juices and spices may also be added (Gupta and Sharma, 2009). The most common aremetheglin (mead containing spices or herbs), melomel (mead with fruit juices),hippocras (pyment with herbs and spices) and sack mead (produced with superiorconcentration of honey) Thetime needed for fermentation and maturation ranges from several months toseveral years. Its modernproduction, in general terms, involves the addition of nutrients to initialdiluted honey, pasteurization, yeast inoculation, fermentation and removal ofimpurities. It is the oldest fermented drink in the world.
It is nutritious, containing many elementsrequired by an organism and has excellent effect on digestion and metabolism.It also contains minor constituents responsible for antioxidant activity ofmead. R Hence,the utilisation of honey processing waste to produce mead offers honeyproducers another alternative to diversify their production and supply themarket with new products.
This is also in line with the present situation ofconsumers demanding more options and a willingness to try new products. It provides an innovative alcoholic drinks tothe consumers and increases the profit of the honey producing industry.