Crystallization of honey is a natural phenomenon where it turns from liquid to granulation or semi-solid state due to natural reasons.
So, what comes to your mind when you see a crystallized or semi-solid honey?
There is a good chance that you might dismiss it as fake or adulterated honey.
This is due to the popular myth that “pure honey doesn’t crystallize”, but the reality is far from it.
Contrary to the popular myth, the crystallization of honey is a natural phenomenon. Natural honey extracted from the comb tends to crystallize sooner or later.
The science behind the crystallization process
The crystallization of honey takes place when “dextrose” present in natural honey spontaneously precipitates out from the supersaturated honey solution.
The dextrose loses water (becoming glucose monohydrate) and takes the form of a crystal. The crystals for a type of lattice.
How much time doest it take for the crystallization of honey?
The speed of crystallization depends on the source of the flower from which honey bees collect nectar.
For example, if honey bees collect nectar majorly from Mustard flowers, the honey is likely to crystallize faster, whereas Acacia and Jamun flower honey take several months or longer to turn into crystallize state.
Purpose of honey crystallisation
Crystallization is a process by which natural honey preserves itself, and will not rot for ages.
In fact, honey found in egyptian pyramids was suitable for human consumption even after 3000 long years.
And yes, that honey was in the crystallization form!
The biggest irony in India is even the educated class of consumers live with this myth. They perceive crystallized honey as fake and adulterated, in spite of clear instruction on the honey label.
This myth has done so much of damage that, the availability of natural honey in the marker has become scarce.
People selling genuine honey feel discouraged while the people selling synthetic honey and denatured honey is flourishing.
Why commercial brands honey does not crystallises
Most commercial brands avoid packing natural honey.
They either “denature” honey through high heat, ultrafiltration and by adding anti granulating chemicals.
Or, they simply pack synthetic honey, like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) or rice syrup, which doesn’t crystallize at all.
Why 90% of the Mustard honey produced in India is exported
According to the recent data, India exports more than 90% of Mustard honey produced.
The beekeepers who extract this highly beneficial honey, find it hard to sell it to the consumers, because of the prevailing myth about the crystallization.
Therefore, the only choice left for them is to sell this honey to the exporter at a low price.
However, in developed countries like America and Europe, they don’t have this kind of myth. They sell crystallized honey by labelling it as ‘set’ honey and that too at a respectable price.
Science of the Crystallization process
The high concentration of basic monosaccharides called dextrose and levulose are present in honey. It constitutes more than 70% of honey.
When honey is present in the clean waxy comb, it is liquid as honey bees maintain around 35-40 degree temperature. After extraction of the honey from the comb, the dextrose which is less soluble tries to separate from the solution and form an anhydrous crystal, which is pale or white in colour.
The speed of this separation or the crystallization process depends on four factors
1) The source of the flower
As each flower has a different ratio of dextrose and levulose in their nectar. If the quantity of dextrose is more, honey is likely to crystallize much faster. If it is less, then the crystallization process may take several months or longer.
Another major factor is the presence of dust, pollen and wax particles in honey. They act as nuclei of crystallization and therefore, help crystallize honey faster.
Temperature also plays an important role, as the cooler temperature speeds up the crystallization process. That is why every label of honey around the world reads: “Do not refrigerate honey”. This is because refrigeration hastens the process of crystallization.
It also reads, ” If honey is crystallized, keep in warm water or sunlight”, because the honey comes back to liquid form when it reaches 40-degree centigrade.
3) Period of Immobility
Another factor is the period of immobility. Normally, if you are using honey daily, it will not crystallize, because daily movement prevents crystals from setting down. But there is a very high chance of faster crystallization if kept unmoved.
The speed of crystallization affects the texture of crystallized honey
If the process of crystallization is faster, then there will be many tiny crystals resulting in a smooth texture.
If the process is lower, then the crystals will be larger and fewer resulting in a grainy texture.
How to reliquify crystallised honey?
In fact, any kind of crystallized honey can be easily converted into liquid honey by immersing it in hot water or by keeping under sunlight.
However, care should be taken not to heat beyond 45 degrees, otherwise honey will start losing its nutritional value.
Crystallization of honey is a natural phenomenon. Time taken for crystallisation vary for different varieties of honey. The myth agaist crystalllisation have encouraged synthetic honey (which does not cystallised).
So next time you come across the crystallized honey, never preceive it as fake or adulterated, instead aducate people about it.
We believe that people will start getting genuine honey once they come out of this evil myth.